I've gotten a little fragile since the lobsters started looking at me funnyby Anthony Bourdain / August 20, 2001 / Leave a comment
To be honest, it didn’t start with what Jimmy said. It didn’t start last night, during that long, ugly bar crawl. And as much as I’d like to lay it off on the drinking, or the coke, or the pressure of the busy season-it didn’t start there either.
It was the lobsters. And that steak. I think that steak might have had something to do with it.
That’s where things started to slide.
Understand; I’ve been killing lobsters for like, 22 years now. I’ve boiled them alive. Steamed them to death. I’ve torn them in half, chopped them into wriggling chunks for fricassee, for Lobster Americaine. Early in my career, when I worked at one of those seaside tourist traps, you could pick your victim out of a 55-gallon tank on your way in and I’d kill him to order, have him delivered to your table steamed, broiled, stuffed, or baked-your choice.
I killed them in dozens, stacked their struggling bodies in heaps, five-deep in the heavy stainless steel and wrought-iron steamer, slammed the double doors shut, turned the wheel, and gave them the steam. I racked up, in one year, a body count that would have been the envy of a company-sized unit of angry Serbs. I was the Pol Pot of Lobsterdom, and you could smell the brackish cloud from the stacks of the dead blocks away from my kitchen. The drains clogged with the milky white albumen which bubbled out from inside their shells-it clung to my shoes, stained my clothes, collected under my fingernails.
And I didn’t mind at all. Not one little bit.
One of my early chefs, an affable Frenchman with a drinking problem, explained why one must section the hapless creatures while still alive for Lobster Americaine. “The meat,” he said, “she become tough.”
I said, “Oui, chef!” with no thought of my victims’ pain, or of some Lobster Nuremberg in the future.
Other chefs I knew complained of bad dreams.
“I dream I’m in a sauna,” said one, “and I look out the door through the little window? And there’s a big motherfuckin’ lobster and he’s, like, turning up the heat, man. His antennae are twitching, and he’s making all sortsa godawful screechin’ sounds. There’s a whole buncha his friends, they clappin’ their claws together as he gives me the steam. Then, when I’m all pink and red and shit, they…