Forty-three years ago I ate my first lobster. I had just completed my first year as a high school English teacher in Plainfield, Connecticut. The kids were done with school, but the teachers were required to show up one more day to grade final exams and turn in semester grades. None of us teachers really wanted to be in school, but we tried to make the best of it. Under the guidance of the Home Ec. teacher we boiled live lobsters and had quite a feast. About half of the teachers knew how to eat a whole lobster, and they coached the rest of us. What a great way to end the school year!
I’ve loved eating lobster ever since. Unfortunately, there are not many opportunities to eat fresh whole lobster in Wisconsin. Last weekend we had such an opportunity. Margaret and Don, the daughter and son-in-law of one of our former assisted living residents, invited us to join them for a Lobster Fest Wisconsin Style in Mosinee, about a 2-hour-drive north of us. A group of people from their church organize a Lobster Fest every year. This year we felt honored to be among the twenty guests.
What makes a Wisconsin Lobster Fest better than anything you’ll find in New England is the first course – a cheese and sausage plate (from a local cheese factory) served with a golden brown punch that’s a combination of apple wine, cherry wine, beer, and some other spirits. (Mim and I just tasted the punch, which was very tasty, but then switched to a white wine for the evening libation.)
A bowl of freshly steamed mussels came next. (Mussels are Mim’s favorite shellfish, so she couldn’t be happier!) Then came the boiled lobster, corn on the cob, and boiled potatoes.
The woman seated across the table from me had grown up in New Jersey and she generously offered tips to everyone at the table about how to twist off the lobster tail, crack open the claws, and suck out the tiniest, sweetest morsels of all from the skinny little lobster legs. Eating a whole lobster takes time. Eventually everyone finished the main course and was ready for dessert – blueberry buckle with ice cream. It was a wonderful feast.
After dinner most of the guests stayed around to help with the cleanup, sort of… Margaret wanted me to see the hostess’ baby grand piano, so we went to the music room instead of the kitchen. I sat down to play the only ocean song I could think of – “Puff the Magic Dragon.” But the hostess quickly brought me a folder of sheet music from the 1930’s and 1940’s. A few guests gathered around the piano to sing and together we assumed the responsibility of entertaining the kitchen crew with our music.
I guess that’s how a Lobster Fest Wisconsin Style ends, with everyone working together to be sure everyone feels welcome, has fun, and the work gets done.
A truly destitute man is not one without riches,
but the poor wretch who has never partaken of lobster.
I guess I would modify this anonymous quotation to say,
A truly destitute person is not one without riches,
but the poor wretch who has never participated in a Lobster Fest Wisconsin Style.
Thanks, Margaret and Don, and Jean, Melanie, Ruth, Clay, and everyone else who let us be a part of this evening. And, thanks also to the Plainfield High School Home Ec. teacher for teaching me to love lobster. Oh, and thanks to God, too, for creating lobsters, and for giving us friends so that we can have wonderful times like this together.