Silence of the Lobsters – Part One

lobster claws

My dad owned a restaurant from long before I was born till the day he died. Marty’s Seafood was a big fried-fish shack on the Connecticut shoreline. The tons of fish, lobster, scallops, clams, hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, onion rings, and other (mostly breaded and deep-fried) delights he served–working seven days a week year-round, and a good fifteen hours a day during the tourist season–added up to a living. I’m sure as he paid my college tuition, he muttered, “That’s a lot of scallops.”

I was practically weaned on his menu, and started bussing tables at age 8. I was paid a quarter per table, which made me nearly vibrate with glee. Later, during summers off from college, I waited tables, and then I left the place as fast as I could. Restaurant work was hard.

postcard of Marty's restaurant

Decades later, I still have many vivid recollections of Marty’s, several of which my therapist finds fascinating. Some of my earliest memories of any kind are of my father carrying me through the steamy, greasy haze of the kitchen. But topping the memory list would be the lobsters, who were delivered through the back door in waxy cardboard crates on icy “bedding,” damp and bluish-greenish-brownish black. They were “claw-cuffed” with thick rubber bands, and they bubbled at the mouth a little, half-heartedly wiggling their spiny tentacles.

They arrived mildly stupefied, but when being lowered into the boiling cauldron, they put up an admirable, if disturbing, fight. The teenage cooks were told to remove them from the crate one at a time and lower them head-first into the water, so they would die quickly and wouldn’t “scream” (which sounded less like screaming than whistling). But these nudniks often did the opposite. They would hold a crate above the edge of the pot and try to dump in the lobsters all at once, which often caused the creatures to cling, in apparent desperation, to the sides of the crate. This response only delayed the inevitable, of course, and then once they were in the pot, they… well, what they did was, they thrashed around for about thirty seconds, clanking and rattling the lid. The boys certainly didn’t react with horror like the Julie Powell character in Julie and Julia, nor were they giddily afraid like Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. Instead they seemed not to notice.

But I noticed. It made me sick inside, like my bowels were melting.

Minutes later, though, wearing my pastel “Marty’s Seafood Restaurant” t-shirt, my permed hair pulled back in a high ponytail, I would carry the now-bright-red creatures into the dining area. With the “screams” of the recent past behind me, I would present the lobsters to the sunburned tourists, giving each a plastic bib, a nutcracker, a little ramekin filled with about half a stick of melted butter, and a handful of hand-wipes.

Silence of the Lobsters – Part Two 

5 thoughts on “Silence of the Lobsters – Part One

  1. Kama,

    Lobster has been one of my favorites since I was child, but I could never deal with it when the restaurant put the tank in full view. Sometimes they even invited you to “pick one out.” Oh, great. Can I name it, too? What child enjoys this? (As your post’s title suggests, probably the ones who grow up to be serial killers.) Thing is, I love lobster. My solution: Sit with your back to the tank and Deny, Deny, Deny.

    Your blog is beautifully expressed, and I relate to it in a big way. I love animals. Because they’re incredibly loveable. And also because they’re delicious. I’ve always dealt with this inconsistency by just shutting out any unpleasantness, and letting my dogs kiss me on the mouth. But you’ve got real courage. I am both excited and terrified to go on this journey with you. Lead on!

    – PC

  2. Even though I intend to keep eating lobster, I’m loving your stories…and I might pause for a moment before I eat the next one to honor his (her?) sacrifice. I’m not really kidding.

    Meanwhile, my favorite line? “I’m sure as he paid my college tuition, he muttered, ‘That’s a lot of scallops.'”

  3. “…several of which my therapist finds fascinating”.
    oh, tell us some of these in part 2!

    Also, can we please have a picture of you with permed hair, pulled back into a ponytail with or without melted bowels? Please!

    I’m a big fan of this blog. Move over Michael (Pollan)

  4. hi kama, my family and i loved marty’s and i have many memories of eating there and the great food. my brother used to do a seafood thing with steamers and lobsters and they stayed in the bath tub the night before and the steamers would eat corn starch to get the sand out of them and i have cooked lobsters before so i know the sound. but i still love my seafood. and my godmother lived down the road from marty’s for decades. who owns marty’s now, haven’t been there in years. i wonder if you ever waited on any of my family? small world.

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