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One Step Too Far

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One Step Too Far
COOKED: This baby is done

No, that creature pictured above is not a red scorpion.

It’s a lobster.

As a matter of fact, it is a very dead northern hemisphere lobster; live ones are dark red, green and black.

They turn red when they are cooked, as do their clawless cousins that live off the coasts of southern Africa.

The reason I’m giving you all this lobster background is that I ate one last week in a fancy restaurant.

It was the most expensive item on the menu but I found the experience a bit disappointing.

Fortunately, the things that bothered me are consistent with some of my beefs about western society, so I am going to make a meal of them in this column.

I was going to say, ‘try to salvage the experience by getting a column from it,’ but it was a very nice evening and I learned something so nothing needs to be salvaged.

Besides, the main reason I didn’t enjoy the meal more was that I didn’t bother to ask beforehand how the dish would be cooked.

I’ve boiled lobsters in the past and I’ve cooked a few on the braai but I haven’t had one in a restaurant since the days when my dad was picking up the bill.

Those childhood memories include a whole lobster, shell, eyes and all; a set of pliers and possibly a hammer to help get to the meat; and a big paper bib that the waitress tied around my neck and tucked into my lap.

That’s what I was hoping for, but what I got this time was a mixture of cheese, cream, brandy, mustard and chilli that had been cooked with the lobster meat in a pan and then presented on the opened claw and tail shells.

It’s called lobster thermidor and it was very pretty but there were no carpentry tools, no bib and very little of the original lobster flavour.

Lobster is widely considered to be a delicacy. It may be a bit over-rated, but I’m not sure why anyone would want to hide the flavour in a heavy sauce.

But that’s the way things seem to be going. More is usually seen as better, so by that reasoning, more ingredients and more flavours would be an improvement even if they obscured the main one.

What I was really looking forward to, though, was the challenge of eating the thing –I even spilled some of my starter on my shirtso I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping my clothes clean if the bib didn’t materialise.

But easier is often seen as better as well, so instead of meat sealed in a hard shell served with a few tools, I got a pretty plate of accessible food and a fork.

For me, someone else opening the shell was the first step too far… although I imagine the lobster would argue removing it from the ocean and killing itwere bad steps as well, and the second step too far was hiding the flavour.

Once they did that, I could just as well have been eating scorpion thermidor.

One Step Too Far

No, that creature pictured above is not a red scorpion.

It’s a lobster.

As a matter of fact, it is a very dead northern hemisphere lobster; live ones are dark red, green and black.

They turn red when they are cooked, as do their clawless cousins that live off the coasts of southern Africa.

The reason I’m giving you all this lobster background is that I ate one last week in a fancy restaurant.

It was the most expensive item on the menu but I found the experience a bit disappointing.

Fortunately, the things that bothered me are consistent with some of my beefs about western society, so I am going to make a meal of them in this column.

I was going to say, ‘try to salvage the experience by getting a column from it,’ but it was a very nice evening and I learned something so nothing needs to be salvaged.

Besides, the main reason I didn’t enjoy the meal more was that I didn’t bother to ask beforehand how the dish would be cooked.

I’ve boiled lobsters in the past and I’ve cooked a few on the braai but I haven’t had one in a restaurant since the days when my dad was picking up the bill.

Those childhood memories include a whole lobster, shell, eyes and all; a set of pliers and possibly a hammer to help get to the meat; and a big paper bib that the waitress tied around my neck and tucked into my lap.

That’s what I was hoping for, but what I got this time was a mixture of cheese, cream, brandy, mustard and chilli that had been cooked with the lobster meat in a pan and then presented on the opened claw and tail shells.

It’s called lobster thermidor and it was very pretty but there were no carpentry tools, no bib and very little of the original lobster flavour.

Lobster is widely considered to be a delicacy. It may be a bit over-rated, but I’m not sure why anyone would want to hide the flavour in a heavy sauce.

But that’s the way things seem to be going. More is usually seen as better, so by that reasoning, more ingredients and more flavours would be an improvement even if they obscured the main one.

What I was really looking forward to, though, was the challenge of eating the thing –I even spilled some of my starter on my shirtso I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping my clothes clean if the bib didn’t materialise.

But easier is often seen as better as well, so instead of meat sealed in a hard shell served with a few tools, I got a pretty plate of accessible food and a fork.

For me, someone else opening the shell was the first step too far… although I imagine the lobster would argue removing it from the ocean and killing itwere bad steps as well, and the second step too far was hiding the flavour.

Once they did that, I could just as well have been eating scorpion thermidor.