This all started because of unsweetened Almond milk, purchased for my older brother's wife, and left in my mother's refrigerator when they flew away perhaps forever back to California. New Jersey weather also played a role; after a hot, humid, not-yet-summer heat wave came and went, turning time back to days barely reaching 60 degrees, the nights a brisk 40-50's in early June. Farenheit.
Well, my soul checked out missing as I sat listening
To the hours and minutes tickin' away
Yeah, just sittin' around waitin' for my life to begin
While it was all just slippin' away
The winter soups and casseroles were like lingering winter clothes, not yet ready to give up the ghost. I can't remember another year where the switch to summer eating was so difficult. And out of nowhere, I started to crave a seafood chowder that was healthy. I bought fresh dill. The price of lobster dropped dramatically. I splurged on swordfish.
The idea for the title comes courtesy of a new guy at the seafood department at the grocery store, who I asked to steam a 2 pound lobster for me, while I meandered around looking for other things on and not on my list. He asked me how to cook a lobster and if they really scream. He was serious, nervous. Suddenly, I had memories of Maine, of learning to fish, gutting them on the beach. Memories of clamming and setting lobster traps with my best friend and her grandfather. "Or do they shriek?" he interrupted my visit to a teenaged past, and Springsteen singing about better days.
I asked how the store cooks them and the guy said, "We take them out of the tank, rinse them, wrap them in foil and put them in the steamer for ten minutes..." hesitating, "I've never done it before." He looked so worried that I tried to console him, "Here's how I do it: fill a large pot and let the water come to a boil, then thank the lobster for giving his life while plunging him head first quickly and cover with a lid. Then you say a heartfelt prayer for seven minutes. And no, they don't scream or shriek."
This stew was made over a period of three days, while I waited for the price of lobster to go down. This is the best remembrance of what I made and it was delicious, hearty, and soothed a sore throat:
Using a 7 quart (6.6 liter) stainless steel Cuisinart Saucepot with Cover, MADE IN KOREA:
Saute in olive oil 1 large Vidalia onion, several garlic cloves, adding sliced portobella mushrooms until nicely browned.
Microwave 5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes and 2 yams until tender, when cooled remove skins from yams but not potatoes; cut all into rough chunks.
Add chopped celery, chopped baby carrots, a handful each of frozen corn and frozen peas.
Add one peeled, chopped parsnip.
Add approximately 2 quarts of unsweetened Almond milk, thickened with about 2 T. of flour or cornstarch (I used both).
At some point I decided to make this more than just lobster stew, adding 3 cans of minced clams including the liquid, 4 skinless fillets of pollack, one can of lump crabmeat, and a half pound piece of frozen-at-sea swordfish, salting and peppering as it simmered.
Oh, and add about one half of a bottle of Pinot Grigio, stirring occasionally.
When the lobster was cool enough, I rinsed it, removing as much lobster meat as humanly possible, shredded and added it to the saucepot, along with fresh parsley and dill, paprika, tumeric. Let this simmer while you drink the rest of the wine, despite it not being red.
Okay, so I was taught "waste not, want not", and started to suck the lobster legs, standing over the kitchen sink. My husband walked in and asked, "What are you doing?" After washing my hands and arms, I answered, "Remember that movie about the mermaid at the fancy restaurant devouring a lobster? Well, I'm temporarily being a mermaid while making dinner." The poor guy. I forget briefly now and then he's got Alzheimer's, but he surprised me by responding, "I remember parts of that movie...it was like Cinderella, except the man who loved her had to get her into a bathtub to keep her alive...right?"
There's better days shining through
"Yes, it was a love story. He told the whole restaurant 'she's really hungry'. He didn't care that she was different." Then my husband said, "That's how I feel about you all the time."
"I know", I said, sucking on another lobster leg, "It's okay with me that you're different now, too." But I was choking back tears as I served this with a mixed green salad and yellow rice. When it thickened overnight, we re-heated the stew, eating it on toast. Both sons were here; all I had to say was it was high protein and healthy. Gone in 2 days.
Every fool's got a reason for feelin' sorry for himself
And turning his heart to stone
Tonight this fool's halfway to heaven and just a mile outta hell
And I feel like I'm comin' home.
selected lyrics in italics from Better Days by Bruce Springsteen