Friday, November 22, 2013

Lobstering or Nature Abhors a Fatty

The next time I go to a party or on a vacation and wish I had stayed on my diet, I'm going to remind myself that it's worse for lobsters.

Yes, for lobsters.

If I gain too much weight, I might have to go up a size in jeans or wear a longer jacket. If they gain too much weight, it's "Sayonara, suckuh."

Size matters in today's world, and the prize isn't going to the biggest. Well, maybe the biggest loser. What's the single most flattering thing you can say to a woman? "Wow, have you lost weight?"

Even in high school (when the chubbiest of girls still has it all over her same-weight mother, gravity being decidedly on your side when you're sixteen), skinny is where you want to be. My own daughter, whose figure is practically perfect thanks to ten years of posting on a horse and manual labor at the stable afterwards, complains about the size of her thighs.

But again, unless we're talking morbidly obese to the point of heart failure, for most of us, weight fluctuations are not the end of the world. Alas, for the lobster, they just might be.

In order to protect the species (and assure delectable lobster bakes for generations to come), each state establishes strict guidelines on what does and does not constitute a "keeper." This is one of the things my husband had to prepare for when he got his lobster license several years ago. He was taking a scuba diving course with a friend. We happen to live in an area with a professional lobster trade, and as a licensed amateur, you can dive for lobsters or put out as many as ten traps for private use.

"Think how much money we'll save!" he told me.

I couldn't resist bursting his bubble just a little. "Um ... how much were the classes? And the equipment? And the license? How many lobsters are you planning to catch?"

He was undeterred. The first lobster he caught was long enough but too skinny. Way too skinny — like, Olsen twin skinny. In fact, I felt so bad for this anorexic adolescent crustacean that I insisted we release it back into the wild. We put it in one of our daughter's pails, took it down to the local beach and waded in toward a bed of rocks. The little guy (or gal) was stunned at first but then scurried away. 

Traditionally, lobstermen and women have pulled their traps and then used a caliper to determine if the lobster is a "keeper." If not, it's thrown overboard to, assumedly, live and grow until its caught another day. The trouble is that lobsters are better suited to crawling around on the ocean floor. When they're tossed back in from a boat, they float like little underwater hang gliders down through unfriendly water. Bigger fish think "It's rainin' lobstah! Sweet!" The little guys may not be boiled with butter, but their chance of survival has been significantly diminished.

So the industry (including some innovative lobstermen from our town) invented a better system. Today's traps include a generous one-way entrance and a much smaller escape vent. The "bugs" that are too small to keep, sell, boil and relish leave the trap while it's still under the water. The larger ones are ... well ... history, albeit delicious history.

Here's the lobster conversation I imagine inside the trap:

"This party blows, I'm out of here."

"Me too. That bait was totally overrated."

"Let's just squeeze past the crowd and out this side door. Ooph. Tight fit. Made it."

"Wait for me. Errrgh. Ugh. What the ...?"

"I told you to lay off the crab dip! I told you to go to the gym! 'Later, alligator."

So, you see, the world of lobsters is much like the world of high school (and much like the world of middle-aged moms). Emaciated supermodel Kate Moss once said, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."

Except, maybe, lobster.

If you enjoyed this post, order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at

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