Monday, July 31, 2006

Make sure it is a Mainah lobstah!

Still having problems uploading images - see the new tags at the original article:

Sure it's a Maine lobster? Check for an ID

By Bella English, Globe Staff July 31, 2006

At restaurants throughout the world, menus feature "Maine lobster," that sweet, succulent stuff that makes grown people don bibs and make a delicious mess. Like Idaho potatoes, Vermont maple syrup, and Florida oranges, Maine lobster has become a name brand. The state produces 75 percent of the lobster catch in the United States, and it brings a premium price, both at the docks and on the table.

But are you really getting Maine lobster, or is it what some Mainers call an "impostor lobster," from Canada or elsewhere? Under a new program that kicks off today in Portland, lobster dealers will be encouraged to tag the catch, identifying it as being caught in Maine waters. The plastic tags will hang from the claw knuckles and state simply: "Certified Maine Lobster." On the front will be a picture of a lobster and a lighthouse; on the back, "" At a press conference, Governor John Baldacci will tag the first "official" lobster, caught in Casco Bay.

Because of increasing competition from Canada, the Maine Lobster Promotion Council is having to market a product that's been a mainstay of the state for centuries, and whose iconic crustacean image graces the state's license plates. "We hope every lobster caught in Maine waters will soon be wearing these new ID bracelets," said Kristen Millar, the council's executive director. "It's truth in advertising. All lobsters are called 'Maine lobsters' and yet they're not all from Maine. It has become this generic term, like Kleenex."

"Don't buy impostor lobster" is the campaign slogan, which will be printed on all sorts of items, from lobster bags to placemats.

The program will be voluntary, dependent upon everyone from the dealers who buy lobster off the docks for resale to retailers or processing plants. John Hathaway, a lobster dealer and processor who owns Shucks Maine Lobster in Richmond, loves the idea. "We have the best lobster in the world, and we need to let people know what they're getting."

What they're getting, he said, are environmentally sustainable creatures carefully harvested by experts. "It's not some big trawler out there dragging the bottom. These are guys who go out and they take them by hand, only take the right size, and they place them down carefully. There's a lot of TLC involved."

But Maine sells 60 to 70 percent of its catch to Canada, where much of it is processed and packaged as lobster meat, then sold back to US fish shops and restaurants as a "product of Canada." (Canada has several lobster processing plants, which are subsidized by the government, while Maine has three privately owned plants.)

According to US law, retailers are required to disclose the country of origin for seafood, says Millar. But federal law also states that if a US product is radically transformed in another country, it becomes a product of that country. Hence, a Maine lobster sold to Canada where it is taken out of the shell, cooked or left raw, and then packaged is a product of Canada.

Maine's new tagging program won't change Canadians' habits, but officials are hoping to raise awareness among US consumers. If the program works, customers will be able to determine whether the lobster they're buying is really from Maine. Ultimately, the state's fishermen say more local processing plants need to be built to support an industry that last year harvested 65 million pounds of lobster, for sales of $300 million.

Naturally, if you ask anyone in Maine, its lobster is vastly superior to Canada's. Michael Gagne is chef/owner of the Robinhood Free Meeting House, a five-star restaurant on Georgetown Island. He'll use only local lobster, which he said is incomparable. "Most of Maine lobster tends to be softshell so it's easier to eat, not so fibrous, and is sweeter," he said.

But chef Jasper White, who owns four Summer Shack restaurants in the Boston area, said he uses lobsters from Canada and Maine, as well as other New England states. For him, it's not a matter of which is better, but which is available. "If people come in here in February and ask for Maine lobster, I'll tell them to go wake up the lobstermen and the lobsters, because the lobsters go dormant in winter," said White, who wrote the cookbook "Lobster at Home."
Canada has the majority of the North American market, said White. He added that he's glad Maine is starting to market its product. "For rolling up your sleeves and enjoying steamed lobster, you can't beat Maine lobster in the summer."

Maine lobstermen and dealers tend to be an independent lot, and supporters of the tagging program hope they'll cooperate. "The quintessential symbol of independence in this area of the country is the Maine lobsterman," said Gagne. "And that is both the boon and the bane. They need to work together because this is a global marketplace."

Millar recently sent a letter to Maine lobster dealers, explaining the program and asking them to sign an agreement that they will participate. Once they do, they'll receive the tags and other promotional materials.

But once the lobster leaves the dealer's hands for a fish store or a restaurant, it's the honor system: What's to stop a retailer from advertising his Canadian lobster as Maine lobster? "We will hear through the grapevine, through the marketplace . . . . We are going to be very aware of those folks who say they're serving it, but they're not, and we'll make a big deal out of it," stressed Millar.

Friday, July 28, 2006

New word

This ones comes from Sheila in Kennebunkport:

lozenger: n., a small medicated tablet intended to soothe the throat. (Brand of choice in Maine? Obviously Fisherman's Friends.)

She also mentioned that she didn't learn that it was called a lozenge until she attended college out of state.

This happened to me recently too. I was commenting on a cool parker that I had seen and was corrected that it is actually called a parka. Now I have lived "away" for 12 years and I just learned this!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Half-baked Lobster?

Okay it really wouldn't be half-baked but half-boiled, right?

Hmm...I'm having a hard time uploading the picture. Go here to see it:

Very rare crustacean caught by Down East lobsterman
Friday, July 14, 2006 - Bangor Daily News

BAR HARBOR - The newest addition to the Mount Desert Oceanarium's lobster colony looks half-baked.

But it's nothing personal.

The rare 1-pound crustacean, caught earlier this week in Steuben, is a genetic mutation with a two-toned shell.

One side is the usual mottled dark green. The other side is the orange-red shade of a lobster that's already spent some time in the hot pot.

The odds of this kind of mutation occurring are very rare - something like one in 50 million to 100 million, according to oceanarium staff. The chance of finding a blue lobster is far more common, at one in a million.

"Isn't he pretty?" Bette Spurling of Southwest Harbor cooed Thursday as she stroked the lobster's shell to calm him down. "It's quite a drawing card for people because they're quite unusual."

Spurling is the wife of a lobsterman and works part time at the oceanarium. She explained that lobster shells are usually a blend of the three primary colors - red, yellow and blue. Those colors mix to form the greenish-brown of most lobsters. This lobster, though, has no blue in half of its shell.

That was a shock to longtime lobsterman Alan Robinson, who hauled him out of Dyer's Bay in Steuben.

"I didn't know what to think," Robinson said. "I thought somebody was playing a joke on me. Once I saw what it was ... it was worth seeing. I've caught a blue one before. But they claim this is rarer than the blue ones."

In his 20-plus years of fishing, he has never seen a lobster like this one.

"It was something with the line drawn so straight like that," Robinson said.

Bernard Arseneau, the former manager at the oceanarium's affiliated lobster hatchery, drove to Lubec on Wednesday to pick up the two-toned creature. He explained that lobsters have a growth pattern in which the two sides develop independently of each other.

"Even regular colored ones have a left-right sort of growth," Arseneau said.

Children visiting the oceanarium were struck right away by the unusual coloration.

"Dude, it's half orange and half, like, regular color for a lobster," exclaimed Alyssa Bonin, 12, of Webster, Mass.

Robinson donated the colorful crustacean to the oceanarium, which often is the beneficiary of strange things that fishermen pull up from the sea. It has received only three two-toned lobsters in its 35 years of existence, officials said.

"Fishermen have been super to us over the years, bringing things in to us," said David Mills, the co-director and owner of the oceanarium. "Our charge is to teach people about the marine life and commercial fishing in Maine."

Mills intends to keep the two-toned lobster over the winter and have him on display for educational purposes, though he has no plans to name him. "

Lobsters are interesting but not personable," he said.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

July 4th + 1

In honor of July 4th, here is Merriam-Webster's word of the day:

Yankee \YANG-kee\ noun

1 a : a native or inhabitant of New England b : a native or inhabitant of the northern U.S. *2 : a native or inhabitant of the U.S.

Example sentence: "They mistake who assert that the Yankee has few amusements...and men and boys do not play so many games as they do in England." (Henry David Thoreau, Walden)

Did you know? Many etymologies have been proposed for "Yankee," but its origin is still uncertain. What we do know is that in its earliest recorded use "Yankee" was a pejorative term for American colonials used by the British military. The first evidence we have is in a letter written in 1758 by British General James Wolfe, who had a very low opinion of the American troops assigned to him. We also have a report of British troops using the term to abuse citizens of Boston. In 1775, however, after the battles of Lexington and Concord had shown the colonials that they could stand up to British regulars, "Yankee" became suddenly respectable and the colonials adopted the British pejorative in defiance. Ever since then, a derisive and a respectable use of "Yankee" have existed side by side.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

Also, the above picture is thanks to my sister who was lucky enough to spend July 4th on the USS Constitution.