By Sher Maryn LeBay
When I was a little girl growing up in Connecticut, I would have been very happy if lobster had been designated as an essential food group. Every birthday I wanted just one thing: a 2 lb. lobster all my own. One birthday stands out among many others. I was five or six and my parents took me to a restaurant in Westport called the Clam Box, a quintessentially New England place, with a white wooden exterior and lots of windows that looked out mostly over a parking lot instead of the sea. The food made up for it. Well, really, I only ever tasted the lobster. When my cupcake with the lit candle arrived at our table and everyone was singing, I sat shyly in my chair, my well-used lobster bib in full view. I didn't have room for the cupcake.
I arrived in Cape Breton just as lobster season was kicking off. It lasts two months starting in mid May. I ate nine lobsters in two weeks. And I did something I said I could never do: I boiled the water and cooked a few myself. Living here has brought me closer to the pulse of all life, the coming and going of it, my part in it all, the joys and sorrows. Lobster and all the Cape Breton festivities that go with it are pure joy but I suppose I will always notice the catch light in a lobster's eye. To notice this light is who I am in the dancing circle of life.
I thank every lobster I eat.
So, I jumped into the Caper's world of lobster with both feet, exploring the trail of this strange-looking creature with black pearl eyes, from sea to feast. Lobstermen offered to take me out and I wanted to go badly. They leave the dock at about 4am and do not return till noon if the weather is good. If the weather is not good, meaning it is just shy of tumultuos, they return closer to 2pm. I have spied the churning of waves from the shore, much less from a boat. Could I do it? I've been seasick on the Block Island Ferry and I knew I would have to tough it out for more than eight hours.
Maybe someday I will dare it, after a double-dare...
But I was happy exploring all the other parts of lobstering on Cape Breton. When you come here next, look up the lobster festivals in the little towns and go to the church or firehall and sit with folks at long tables and eat corn and lobster and slaw. If you have your own place with a spot to cook, get yourself to one of the wharfs: Main a Dieu, Gabarus, Port Morien. There are many lobster villages. Buy your lobsters right off the boat. Come sometime after 12 noon. This is not a lobster roll place but place to buy live lobster for $8/lb CAD ($6 US). Last year, lobsters went for a little over $5.00/lb CAD so the Cape Breton lobster men and women are pretty happy with this year's season.
So here are some photos to give you a sense of the life here. Anthony Bourdain is really right when he says you know a people by the food it loves. I will let the photos speak for themselves.
FOR A MAP OF WHERE TO BUY LOBSTER FRESH OFF THE BOAT IN CAPE BRETON CLICK HERE: http://capebretonlobster.com