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A silly lobster story

By William Brenner
September 21, 2016

It was a silly idea. Shoprite was holding a live lobster sale: $7.99 a pound, but $5.99 with your Shoprite card. Growing up in city, I loved lobster, but only broiled or steamed in an ocean-side seafood restaurant—or far more frequently, in a Chinese restaurant, Cantonese style, which I prefer even to those on holiday, or special family occasions, after scaring the kids, cooking the lobster on the outdoor barbeque, or gleefully dropping the lobster(s) in a big pot of boiling water.

So, after work on a hot summer day in the Catskills, I walked out of Shoprite in Monticello, Sullivan County, NY, with groceries of milk, bread, eggs and a squiggling bag of on-sale lobster.

Walking down the strip mall near my car I saw the China City Restaurant, an “eat in or take out” place.

Hungry, and again on impulse, I checked the menu and it read, “Seafood (with white rice). Item #123. Lobster Sauce Qt. $3.50 after 6:30 p.m.”

In my pidgin Chinese I politely asked the waitress, “How much for lobster sauce if you put in my lobster?” After an animated conference with the chefs, she came back, laughing, with a reasonably low price. I gave them my lobster, still in the Shoprite bag, and said, “Please cook it in your lobster sauce, with white rice on the side,” and ordered a wonton soup. Sitting by the front window, I had the hot soup with noodles while waiting for the lobster to be cooked.

I may have had misgivings, but the smiling Chinese chef didn’t. I ate my wonton soup frantically, wondering if I should run next door to the Dollar Store to buy a nutcracker for the lobster claws.

I need not have worried. The smiling chef himself, in a tall white cap, walked alongside the waitress as she carried out the steaming lobster in lobster sauce. She didn’t use a plastic plate. The carved-up lobster, head and all, was too big for the plate. She served the rice separately, on a plate. The large lobster, in its sauce, was served in a large bowl, with the claws stylistically arranged on the top, hanging over the edge of the bowl.

I sat there in absolute awe. Everything in the bowl was bright red. Then some customers ambled over to look, ask and admire, before walking back to their tables. Several people outside looked in, then stared at the red concoction with the claws and antennas hanging out, then came in and asked the waitress, “Where was that on the menu?”