One of the things I wanted to do while in Florida was to eat lobster. I love lobster and if it's in my power to know that I'm about to eat my last meal on earth, I'd want it to be lobster. I've only ever had it a handful of times because it's so pricey, but it has never disappointed me. Until now.
When you only get to have something you really love once every five years or so, it takes on a taste that you either remember being better than it actually was, or it really was just that good and you start salivating at the mere thought of getting to eat it again.
I began salivating sometime last week, when Grandma and I were discussing the details of this trip. She said she was going to buy lunches and dinners, and we could go pretty much anywhere we'd like. I'm a pretty picky eater, so I'm not all that adventurous when it comes to food. Oh, I'll try anything once. I ate cuy (guinea pig) and caldo de pata, a soup made of the inside of cow's hooves while in Ecuador. But I mostly order the same thing every time at my favorite restaurants. Now we were going to Florida, and the first thing that comes to my culinary mind when I think of Florida is seafood. And when I think of seafood, I think of lobster.
Grandma said I could have some. I know - you're thinking I'm just a bit spoiled, aren't you? But of course! It's my GRANDMA! That's what grandparents DO! I'll never forget the time we were eating at my mom and dad's and my dad took Kara to get french fries at McDonald's because she didn't like what Mom had fixed for dinner. I started to protest as they walked out the door, and then I realized that Dad was just doing his job. He never would have done that for me when I was growing up in his house.
We went to Anna Maria Oyster Bar in Ellenton for this lobster I had to have. It was a gorgeous night and we decided to eat out on the patio. I looked at the menu and saw that they not only had lobster, they had two kinds of it. A 1¼-pound whole steamed Maine lobster at market price ($14.95) and baked lobster tail (8 oz. for $22.49) from Florida. What to do? Is there a big difference between Maine lobster and Florida lobster?
I asked our waitress about this. She preferred the Florida lobster. She was a native and had grown up on Florida lobster and had just had her first Maine lobster last week. She didn't care for it. Tasted funny, she said. I asked her if she knew what kind of lobster Red Lobster restaurants served, because I know I like theirs. She didn't know.
At this point, I went into Who Wants To Be a Millionaire mode and tried to use logic in deciding which one to order. I considered that the whole lobster deal would be lots of work getting the meat out of the shell while the tail would be splayed out there for lazy me in all its glory. If our waitress grew up on Florida lobster, then of course she would like that better, but that didn't mean I would. Does the 1½ pounds of whole lobster include the shell? If not, then I'd be better off ordering the Maine because I'd get more bang for Grandma's buck. (I try to be a smart shopper, even when spending someone else's money.) I didn't want to order the wrong thing because I didn't know when I'd get to have it again. Who knew ordering lobster could be so difficult?
But wait, there's more!
I finally decided on the Florida lobster. I'm in Florida, right? And our waitress recommended it. Whew. Glad that part's over. Can you tell I have a problem making decisions?
Aunt Kay ordered Maine lobster and they brought hers first. She took a bite and declared it scrumptious. I started thinking that I should have ordered the Maine. Next came my Florida lobster tail. Ooooooh, it looked so fluffy and tasty. And there was the drawn butter that was going to make it just melt in my mouth with yummy goodness. I took my fork and pierced the meat, then twisted it and pulled it toward me. It wouldn't budge. I tugged and pulled some more, but it just wouldn't let go.
I watched Aunt Kay using her cracker and tiny fork to get her lobster meat out and eat it. I was working way harder than she was and I still hadn't managed to get any of mine in my mouth. Finally, I picked up the knife and cut a piece off, dipped it in the butter, then closed my tongue and teeth around the white morsel. Morsel? MORSEL?? That word is reserved for those treasures that tantalize our tastebuds like...say...chocolate. Lobster should be morsel-like, but mine not only was tougher than shoe leather, but it had absolutely no taste. I think maybe that cow's hoof soup tasted better, but I'm not sure, because the main ingredient in that only stayed in my mouth for about five seconds before I spit it out.
I was sick. Here I'd ordered $22.49 lobster and it wasn't good. I didn't even want to go through the motions of eating it and pretending I liked it. To add insult to injury, Aunt Kay let me have a taste of hers and THERE WAS THE LOBSTER I KNEW AND LOVED. On her plate.
About this time, our waitress came by and asked how I liked my lobster. For half a second, I wasn't sure what to say, but then I wrinkled up my nose and told her it really wasn't very good. We had the best waitress in the world, because she took it and said, "You know, sometimes we get a tough one. You must have gotten Grandpa. I'll take this back and get you a steamed one." I don't even remember her name, but I know I love her.
I loved the lobster, too.