Am I the only person who is hoping that the new Swiss trend to ban live-lobster boiling will eventually bubble over and take hold in the United States?
I know this country is not exactly on the federal regulation bandwagon right now, but a nice, neat No Boiling Alive policy would prevent people from having to go through what I did last summer. I was complicit in the boiling of eight live Maine lobsters and I feel terrible about it. I know there’s a legal difference between an accomplice and an accessory, but I think I was both. I was only a passenger in the getaway car, but if it were an episode of Law and Order, I would have spent some time at Rikers.
Here’s how it happened: My husband and I were in Maine and were going to be swinging through Boston to visit a conglomerate of nephews, wives, girlfriends, children, a sister and a brother-in-law. Our nephew Steve was hosting a barbecue for us all. There were going to be not one but two babies at this thing and I couldn’t have been more excited about it.
It might have even been me who suggested that instead of walking in with the obligatory bottle of wine that my husband and I bring Maine lobsters to the barbecue. Like many of my ideas, it seemed so cool in its early fuzzy stages. Like something I would do if I were hipper, more cosmopolitan, an entirely different person than I actually am. Skinnier, with amazing cheekbones and wearing a $170 J Crew soft denim boy-cut shirt that I do not actually own, I would walk into the barbecue with a cooler full of Maine lobsters carried by my husband, whose teeth would light up the Eastern seaboard like a lighthouse beacon.
I had seen something just like this in a featured party photo spread in an old Bon Appetit magazine and I had never been closer to being that person. This was my chance. Suck on that, Martha Stewart.
The morning we left Maine for the drive down to Boston, we drove over to the lobster place, which was less like a seafood store and more like an airplane hangar that smelled like fish. I began having second thoughts immediately. My little Bon Appetit fantasy suddenly began to take a turn toward the grisly.
“So how is this going to work, anyway?” I asked my husband as we pulled into the parking lot.
“We’re buying lobsters and taking them down to Steve’s.”
“And then what?”
“I don’t know. John will take it from there,” he said, referring to my brother-in-law, who we all assumed had done this kind of thing before or would have the self confidence to figure it out. “I imagine he’ll just put them in a big pot of boiling water. And then we’ll melt some butter.”
The reality was setting in.
“Maybe they’re not open yet,” I said. “Oh well, it was a good idea.”
“They’re open.” This wasn’t the first time he had been in the driver’s seat with me not being a team player.
“Doesn’t look like they sell to people off the street, though. It’s more of a wholesale thing. Oh well. Hey, can we stop in New Hampshire on the way down, so I can check that state off my map? Plus, really, we don’t have a lot of trunk space in this car. Oh well.”
“We’re going in.”
Walking into the building, I was really grasping at reasons why we should not buy live lobsters, hold them prisoner bound and gagged in the trunk of our car, take them across state lines, torture and murder them. And then eat their flesh. With butter. That didn’t sound at all legal.
The guy who waited on us — who looked like a fourth-generation lobsterman at least — confirmed it. We were going to choose the size we wanted and he would put eight of them in a Styrofoam cooler and they would still be alive and we would put the cooler in our trunk, still alive, and drive it down to Boston, stopping for a leisurely lunch in New Hampshire, and arriving at my nephew’s house in time for the barbecue, where, still alive, the lobsters would be boiled.
“They’re gonna be clanking around in there the whole time, begging for their lives, aren’t they?” I whispered to my husband. Lobster Guy IV was standing there with the empty cooler. My husband wouldn’t even look at me.
“Just go outside.”
“————” (This is where I tried to give him a painful guilt stare.)
“Your hair is messed up. Go.”
By the time we walked into the party I felt less like the cool aunt and more like the BTK Killer at a family reunion.
This is not who I am. I don’t even like leather couches.
The actual execution took place outdoors, on the grill burner. I stayed inside and played with the babies and drank huge tumblers of wine. I made sure to stay away from the murder scene, following a the-less-I-know-the-better philosophy. There may have been a struggle. My nephew had a burn on his hand that he wouldn’t talk about.
This would never happen to a family in Switzerland.