One of my first cooking jobs, when I was about 19, was as a prep cook at The Lobster Roll, a well-known roadside restaurant on the Napeague Stretch between Amagansett and Montauk. Identified by a simple sign that says “Lunch.” The Lobster Roll has been a Hamptons Icon for decades.
As a junior prep cook, I was a terrifying combination of cluelessness and poor knife skills. By the time I was asked to mix up some lobster salad, I was, thanks to my morning spent clumsily peeling and chopping, wearing Band-Aids on roughly 60% of my fingers.
At this point I should mention that I have no idea if they had surgical gloves there, but even had they I don’t think it would have occurred to me to wear them. As far as I knew, they were for doctors and bad jokes, not to be worn in a restaurant or on a date.
The Lobster Roll’s namesake dish was made from chunks of fresh lobster and other goodies in a mayo-based sauce with a bit of red food coloring to tint it pink (I think that may have been a secret and I have no idea if they still do this), blended by hand in a huge vat then snuggled into a lightly-toasted hot dog bun.
Despite needing to bury my hands to the wrist in the salad to properly mix it, somehow I was surprised when, once finished, I looked down at my hands and saw an exposed field of white skin marked dead-center with a red cut.
The sight prompted a muttered “oh fuck,” followed by me actually slapping my hand over my own mouth like an idiot, followed by a wave of nausea at the thought of being discovered. Not, it should be noted, at the thought of someone getting it in their sandwich.
I returned my hand to my side and I looked over both shoulders to see if anyone had noticed what just happened; I was safe so far. I grabbed whatever oversized digging or spearing or serving implements I could lay my hands on and started searching through the vat.
It was hopeless.
That damned pink-tinged mayo camouflaged my Band-Aid perfectly. With only one option remaining, I did what anyone else that had just dropped medical waste into hundreds of dollars worth of lobster salad would do: I put the salad in the walk-in, got a fresh Band-Aid, smoked a joint, and returned to work.
I had forgotten the entire incident an hour later, so it took a moment or two to process just why someone would be screaming that loud out in the dining room.
I had maneuvered to the back of the kitchen by the time the day manager arrived in the kitchen demanding to know who the fuck had made the fucking lobster salad that day, and informing us that a fucking customer had just fucking spat out a fucking bloody Band-Aid that she had been fucking chewing on.
It was worse than had I assumed it might be. Also funnier.
Whether they knew who the idiot was or not (and a look at everyone’s hands probably would have at least pointed them in the right direction), no one in the kitchen gave me up, instead acting suitably disgusted in order to get the manager the hell out of our territory as fast as possible.
A good 30 minutes of jokes about lobster texture relative to Band-Aid texture followed. Newsflash: the kitchen staffs in restaurants in most resort towns hate you.
Since then I’ve avoided serving garbage with lobsters, but I’ve cooked more than my share. I even set one free once from Sea Wolf, a restaurant I worked at that happened to be on the water.
Why set it free? To make someone laugh or impress a waitress, I’d assume, since the animal-loving chicks at most restaurants always made sad pouty faces whenever I killed one to boil or broil (though laying a fresh tail and clarified butter on them was sure to turn that frown upside down).
Still though, it’s important to honor the animal you’re about to serve. So while I think making boiling lobsters illegal, like the town of Reggio Emilia did, is hilarious, and while I wouldn’t waste 50 cents on a Crustatun (a shellfish electric chair), I do think it’s important that you don’t let pinchy die in vain by overcooking him. Particularly when he’s volunteered to give his life for your dining pleasure (no one forced him to walk into that lobster pot).
So pick lively fellas (they’re typically the freshest, and also do well in kitchen lobster races) and then read how to cook lobsters and make lobster rolls (this is NOT the Lobster Roll’s recipe).
Serve them in the shell with a huge bowl of clarified butter. Wear a raincoat. Use power tools. Get primal. If there’s any left go ahead and try out my lobster roll recipe, but watch your Band-Aids unless you want to traumatize your friends and family.
Or have a good laugh.