Sunday, October 13, 2013

Kitchen Kapers

Even if you have no problem ingesting something that once had parents, you've still got to pity the poor lobster. When he's not being boiled, broiled, steamed, grilled, baked or stuffed, which here in Maine happens every minute of every day, he's having his claws broken like some poor slob who pissed off Tony Soprano.

I know, I know-- people the world over consume chicken wings and baby back ribs and legs of lamb and all the other body parts of all the other animals all the time. Despite all that, a recipe I read in the New York Times for something called "Lobster Cappuccino" seemed unduly cruel. After luring the dumb creature into your home and completing the author's first two opening salvos, Step 3 advises:  
"To make the lobster broth and garnish, lay the live lobster on a cutting board. Place the tip of a large, heavy knife at the indentation where the carapace meets the head of the lobster, making sure the cutting blade is facing the lobster's eyes. Swiftly and forcefully, plunge the knife through the lobster until the knife hits the cutting board."

Assuming you are not Nancy Pelosi but are human and yet go forward anyway, Step 4 has you "twist off the claws and tail, split the lobster in half, discarding the innards after scraping out the roe." This got me wondering--besides whether or not you can get into Heaven if you make Lobster Cappuccino--if lobsters feel pain. Searching the Internet I found roughly a million lobster sites, each one addressing how to cook them, where to buy them and when to trap them. Could an entire species exist just for Man's consumption?

Fortunately I stumbled upon a website run by Robert Huber, a.k.a. Lobsterman. A biologist at Bowling Green State University, he graciously took the time to answer my e-mailed questions, one of which was: Do lobsters feel pain? According to Huber, "All vertebrates have pain pathways in the brain. Some pains may actually be something we go out of our way to experience, such as eating hot chili peppers. Having a knife stuck into your body does not usually come to mind in that context. Lobsters, like any vertebrate, will dislike having their bodies chopped in half and will presumably also find unpleasant a breach of the body wall or the tearing off of a limb."

This teaches us two things: First and most important, never quote a biologist in a humor column. Next, if you insist on following a recipe in which you've got to tear something limb from limb while it's still breathing, plan ahead and have some anesthesia handy. I suggest a glass of red wine. And while you're at it, pour some on the lobster--he needs it more than you do.

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