Sometimes, I think I must be out of my mind to do what I do for work these days. I’m on camera a lot and I find it painful to be on camera. Why? Because:
– Whatever you’re wearing, however you style your hair, that version of you is out of date by the time the show airs and forever afterward. You’re like the new car that’s just been driven off the lot — and no one likes a depreciating car.
– I’m not sure the camera adds the proverbial 10lbs or not, but there is most certainly a widening that takes place; an unfortunate spread of oneself onscreen. Is it the worst thing to look a bit more zaftig than you are in person? No. Does it feel unfair when you’ve been working hard to keep fit precisely because you know you’ll be on camera in the near future? Yeah, it does. [Note to self: First time using ‘zaftig’ in blog, possibly first time using it anywhere. Mark in planner.]
– You think you sound one way, but you don’t. You sound that way.
– Editing can delete a multitude of sins, but you can’t edit down to nothing. Thus, the horsey laugh, the bad habit of interrupting, the weird thing you said weirdly — it’s all on tape. Forever.
If you find yourself having to be on camera anytime soon, don’t despair. I have come up with five ways to help you cope with the trauma. Here now:
Mary’s Top 5 Survival Tips For Watching Yourself On Camera
1. Enjoy several alcoholic beverages before you begin. Everyone looks better after a couple drinks, right? This applies to you watching you. If you can get to the point where you start hitting on yourself through the screen, you’re in a great place.
2. Have a friend watch with you. This needs to be a friend who loves you so much she/he can withstand two of you for the duration of the video. Put them in your will if they agree to this.
3. Worried about your hair or clothing choice? Those potential blunders fade quickly when you realize you were younger then than you are now. Instantly wistful and desirous of that outfit, now, aren’t you? Mm-hmmm.
4. Oh, come on. You must’ve said something humorous or intelligent. Find that instance and play it multiple times. Then let the video continue while you go to the bathroom or get more snacks/vodka.
5. Go watch a bunch of Beyonce videos. Isn’t Beyonce amazing? There you go, much better.
Alone, because Yuri isn’t here, yet. I wish he was. Baby? I wish you were.
And I’m pretty sure I’m a cliche, a thirtysomething woman, transplanted, enchanted and terrified by New York City tonight. (I’ll have you know I’ve seen exactly 0.75 episodes of Sex & The City — and that estimate may be generous. I believe the show has something to do with a woman who blogs or writes a column inside Manhattan and has a lot of shoes. I do have a lot of shoes, but they are mostly in storage in Chicago. There is no room in Manhattan for lots of shoes unless you have lots of money and I do not have lots of money. I have a little money, and that is for rent, now. Goodbye, shoes.)
I saw a boa constrictor (anaconda? python?) snake today, curled around a girl’s shoulders; a snake handler was selling pictures with it at The Cube at Astor Place. That beast was so astonishingly thick and long, I gasped out loud when I saw it, nearly fell over a waiting Yellow Cab. I saw a rainshower and a sunbeam, both through the tree that bows over 2nd and St. Mark’s. I saw a girl so pretty my teeth hurt. She was getting coffee, wearing a short skirt with daisies on it. I thought these exact three thoughts in rapid succession: 1) there is nothing more powerful on this earth than a beautiful girl; 2) fashion/perception is everything; 3) New York will fall in a terrorist attack, hurricane, or contagion and this girl and me, we are as good as dead.
So I’m fitting in!
This post was supposed to be a Tale From The Move because I need more time to get my New York thoughts in order. It’s all too raw and green, like an East Village wheatgrass shot. Better to go back to Chicago.
The laundry room in my (former) building has these cute bookshelves that serve as a resident library. Leave a book or magazine, take a book or magazine. Isn’t that charming? I think so. I was a dutiful, silent member of this library from the day I moved into the building, leaving excellent magazines (e.g., Vogue, New York, Harper’s) whenever I washed muh’ skivvies. I took stuff, too, but for the most part, I was giving more than I got. Though I scored decent magazines that I would have never gotten on my own (Town & Country, House Beautiful, etc.), the vast majority of the books available were not so much my taste. but I rarely got any good books, except the time I spied an early edition of Bellow’s Dangling Man; I still have that copy and yes, it’s currently in storage.
When I packed up to move out, I had a big box of books that I decided would be my gift to the building. When I took my box up to the 20th floor, however, I had to make room. Some of the titles I decided to uh, liberate, included Danielle Steele’s clearly impossible-to-resist The Klone & I; Robert James Waller’s lesser-known Puerta Vallarta Squeeze; and what looked to be Dan Brown’s entire catalog. Ew. I put those all near recycle bin. They had been there for over two years!
Here are a few titles I left for the good people of [REDACTED]:
Fraud, David Rakoff (Doubleday, 2001) The Chinese Opium Wars, Jack Beeching (Mariner Books, 1977) Marriage & Morals, Bertrand Russell (Liveright, 1970)
…and a copy of Madame Bovery and many others I can’t recall, now.
Because I’m renting my condo furnished this summer, I falsely assumed the task of moving would be less arduous and there would be no need to hire professional movers. I was wrong, and thus have spent the last two days in hell.
Fundamental truth: I am ruthless when it comes to disposing of excess stuff. I claim no bric-a-brac. I keep no old shoe. Being a purger (??) is made easier because I live and die by the words of Arts and Crafts giant William Morris, who proclaimed in 1880:
“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
Yes, Willy, Yes!
I am the anti-hoarder. I keep nothing, buy nothing that is not useful/beautiful. If I need a can opener, for example, but can only find lame ones made of plastic, I will wait until I can find a basic metal one and go without canned things. A plastic can opener might be useful but it is not beautiful, so it’s out. A classic, metal can opener is timeless! an objet d’art! I’m 100% serious and I’d like to think my home is harmonious as a result.**
But for heaven’s sake, I’m a person with a home that doubles as an office and a sewing studio. I have so many objects. Harmonious or discordant, this move is gargantuan. Do it all myself? Or even just with Yuri? What planet was I living on? (No! Don’t answer that!)
The Russian and I got boxes, a storage unit, a cargo van. Horrible, all of it. Soul-crushing. I’ve been doing my Midwest-work-ethic best, packing, eliminating, Goodwill-ing, all while still answering emails and attending to work-related tasks! I also remembered to brush my teeth! What race am I running, here?? (No! Shush!!)
As one might imagine, my productivity and emotional fitness ebbed and flowed throughout yesterday and today. This morning, I was actually in a fetal position for a spell, curled up near my desk in a sea of paper, wailing at Yuri, who was in the other room:
“Help me! HELP! ME! I’m doing the work of ten men! TEN MEN, DO YOU HEAR ME! I hate you! I can’t do this! I HATE YOU AND I NEED HELP!”
One of the reasons I love Yuri is because in situations like these he does two things:
1) he lightens the mood by coming into the room with a grin, saying something like, “Aw, who’s on the struggle bus? Who’s lookin’ so fine, ridin’ that struggle bus?” and of course this makes me bust out laughing, still on the floor
2) he helps
But the hard part about moving is never the logistics.
The logistics suck all right. But the core of it, the real trouble in River City is that you’re kicking up deadly serious dust. The longer you live in a place, the deeper and more emotional that dust becomes; if you have a strong emotional connection to a place (like I have to this place) it’s a double whammy. In the past 48 hours, I’ve hit upon a lot of life — more than I really cared to hit right now, honestly. Books, pictures, fabric, dresses, quilts — what we own owns us. And when we move we’re at the mercy of it all, we’re possessed by those possessions, even when we think we don’t hang onto much.
I hang onto absolutely everything. I just store it differently.
I store it here.
**All this editing may be due in part to my peripatetic lifestyle. If I’m not harmonious, I’m sunk. I heard once that “every item or object in your home is a thought in your head,” which is to say that belongings take up valuable real estate in one’s brain. A cleaner home equals a clearer head; I need every advantage I can get.
When I was in high school, I made a thrilling discovery. I discovered Mystery Science Theater 3000.
I was up in my room one Saturday night. It was around Christmastime, well after midnight. Mom let us girls stay up as late as we wanted, pretty much. We were in high school, after all, and if we were home, reading or drawing or doing some kind of creative project*, as was our like, there was no harm in letting us stay up; when we were tired, we’d go to sleep.
I had the retired family TV in my room. (Still not sure how I scammed that away from my sisters, but it was awesome.) I was doing my favorite thing ever: painting a picture while watching all the late shows. That night, after SNL, after the show that came on after SNL and the show after that, I saw Mystery Science Theater 3000 for the first time. Someone at the Des Moines area NBC affiliate station was watching over me.
Here’s what Mystery Science Theater 3000 — or “MST3K” — is, from The Wikipedia:
“[MST3K] features a man and his robot sidekicks who are imprisoned on a space station by an evil scientist and forced to watch a selection of bad movies, as part of a psychological experiment… To stay sane, the man and his robots provide a running commentary on each film, making fun of its flaws, and wisecracking their way through each reel in the style of a movie-theater peanut gallery. Each film is presented with a superimposition of the man and robots’ silhouettes along the bottom of the screen. The film is interspersed with skits tied into the theme of the film being watched or the episode as a whole.”
The episode that came on that night was Santa Claus Conquers The Martians and it remains my favorite episode of all time. I had never laughed harder in my life or been more instantly in love — I loved this show more than I loved my realest high-school crush, Cary Hollingsworth. It was for real. My eyes were glued to the screen, my mouth hung open. This was magic. What was this?? I had to know. Mind you, it was 1995; we didn’t have internet in the house, yet. I didn’t know the name of this incredible program and I couldn’t find out everything about it in 4 seconds flat with a google search.
But it wasn’t getting away from me. No, no, no. The very first commercial break, I ran out of my room and bounded down the stairs to the TV in the living room. I didn’t care if I woke anyone up. I dug through a drawer of VHS videotape and found something blank enough. I crammed it into the VCR, turned on the TV and clicked through the channels to find my show. I jammed my finger on the big red button and was able to record three-quarters of the Santa Claus episode. I watched the whole thing again when it was over. I collapsed into bed around 4:30, deliriously happy.
I had found my people. My VHS tape was my evidence.
The show tapped a vein for me, tone- and humor-wise. These people were smart, hella smart, and totally irreverent — but they weren’t gross. If there was a fart joke, it was because it was the best joke that could be made at that moment in the film, not the easiest. This appealed to me. The sheer number of cultural references made in a single episode expanded my knowledge of the world: who was Johnny Mathis? What is a “wrathful Buddha”? I learned a ton while I wiped tears from my eyes, silently shaking with laughter till I had to gasp for air. I taped every episode while the show ran on that station, which was well over a year.
As it turned out, MST3K was beloved by a lot of people. It’s a cult thing, which means that the weirdness of it was so specific, it appeals to a huge number of people. (Fascinating how that works.) The show ran from ’88-’99 on various networks and there was actually a feature film in ’96, which I went to on opening night, naturally. Members of the cast perform a live version of the show from time to time even today and I travelled far into the suburbs a few years ago with a friend to check it out. It was a scene, that’s for sure. But it wasn’t mine.
I’m not a follower. I don’t get dressed up in costumes for movie screenings. I participated in a pub crawl exactly once in my life (never again.) The cult of MST3K ain’t for me: there will be no Tom Servo** tattoos. But you don’t have to be a part of the extended scene of something to love it. Last night while I was sewing, I watched one of my favorite episodes — Mitchell — on a well-worn DVD and I was so happy. I was sewing and chuckling and marveling that anyone ever believed enough in that bizarre and wonderful show to give it a budget and produce it.
I’m so glad they did. What a bunch of freaks.
**I once got a hold of a hot glue gun and attacked an old typewriter. Gluing plastic gemstones and fake flowers to an old typewriter is the kind of project one must do in the wee hours.
Florida lures and catches people. It’s got a little voodoo going.
Forget the tourists that flock here; the Disneyland pilgrims, the week-long vacationers lounging in the Keys. I’m looking at the people who spend months down here at a time or more, people who have Florida in their veins, who don’t just drink the Kool-Aid but bathe and shower in it, too.
First, you got your snowbirds. These are people who live in northern parts of the country while it’s sane to do so (roughly May-October, though lately its anyone’s guess) then fly south to escape winter. Snowbirds are usually older folk, but I don’t think this is necessarily because they’re finicky or because they sincerely enjoy canasta: they just have the money to come here. I know plenty of thirtysomethings who would love nothing more than to split their year in half and escape to balmy climes when it’s -30. Alas, jobs.
Then there’s the Miami Factor, another lure. Miami is to the rest of Florida as New York City is to the rest of the state of New York. There are dairy farms and motor homes in New York State, but you’d never know it, deep in a throbbing, sweaty underground nightclub on any given night in lower Manhattan. Same goes for Miami: Jay-Z and Justin Bieber are surely doing disgusting/fabulous things with or to various body parts in Miami — possibly at this very moment! — while I’m preparing to demo quilt block construction to the fine people of Baker. Same state, different worlds. I’m still trying to figure out if Miami has gotten more fancy/cool in my lifetime or if I was simply clueless about Miami’s hotness and then someone told me. Either way, the Miami Factor brings legions to Florida because there are crazy parties there and there is apparently very good art there. So you have those party/art people here in Florida, too.
You’ve got immigrants, legal and otherwise, seeking refuge. Most of them come far across the terrifying ocean to touch Florida sand. The fingertip of the state is the first — and sometimes the last — U.S. point they touch. After that, we don’t know for sure if they stay, but I’m writing this from a popular/dangerous entry point.
You’ve a large number of indigent here, indigent for the reasons why people get that way: mental illness, addiction, poverty, abuse, etc. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development does a “Homeless Assessment Report” and in 2013, Florida claimed about 50,000 people without a home, third only to California and New York. The weather’s good here. It’s easier to be without a home in Pensacola than it is to be without one in Green Bay.
The rest of Florida, seems to me, is split into two groups: transplants, who fell in love with Florida and moved all operations so they would never have to leave (Ernest Hemingway comes to mind) — and the natives.
I think I like natives best. You would, too, if you had been meeting the people I met this week.
“Honey, you get yourself some’uh that strawberry wiggle?”
Strawberry wiggle is a dessert and yes, ma’am, I did.
I also got me som’uh that homemade fried chicken, fried turkey, gravy, green beans, candied sweet potato casserole, pecan pie, mousse cake, and sweet tea. I ate it sitting at big, long picnic table on the front porch of the shop where I’m teaching. Me and the quilters, we ate together, and I didn’t talk too much so that I could listen.
There’s a way down here, a way I love. The natives — and transplants who’ve been here for so long they count — are defiantly generous. You wouldn’t think defiance and generosity could live in harmony, but they can and do down here. And this defiance isn’t toward you: it’s toward life itself, toward the weight of it. These people simply will not be beaten by anything, man, nature, or otherwise, and their resolve is palpable. Perhaps the generosity rises from that, though it might be the other way around: the giving, loving nature came first and endures suffering against all odds. War, blight, hurricane, poverty, etc. — it’s all in His hands, honey, so get you some’uh that strawberry wiggle and git in these arms.
That’s what my new friend Margaret says when she sees someone she hasn’t seen in awhile. She opens her long arms wiiiide, like she’s praisin’ Jesus, and she smaaahles this huge smaaahle and she says:
In Nebraska, you get an extra scoop of ice cream at the ice cream shop just because you’re nice. That actually happened.
You can’t get a good piece of fish anywhere, but what’s wrong with you? You’re as landlocked as a person can get in the United States. Eat steak.
In Nebraska, you can visit the International Quilt Study Center — a.k.a. Valhalla for quilt geeks. You’ll receive a near-stately welcome and be rendered speechless when you enter the galleries. Perhaps for the first time in your life you will see quilts given the honor and solemn respect they deserve. This is way, way better than eating substandard fish or even well-ordered steak. Please go there.
And if you’re carrying a Celine handbag within state lines, you will be mobbed in Nebraska.
Look, these are things I know and I tell you because I care about you.
My mother and I stopped by an outlet mall on our way into town. Mom needed pantyhose. We figured at the outlet mall we could get out and stretch our legs, find a cup of coffee, get those hose. And so we exited for Nebraska Crossing, a sprawling, newly-constructed discount compound. I’m not a huge fan of outlet malls; the shopping experience always feels a bit like a mouthful of styrofoam. But it was a warm day and there was a Brooks Brothers store on the grounds, so I was game. I like Brooks Brothers shirts.
So Mom and I are going along and twice in two different shops, I was complimented on my handbag. I am currently toting around a rawther nice handbag, it’s true: it’s a Celine Phantom bag from last year. It’s oxblood-colored (strangely tempting to use the UK spelling there — “oxblood-coloured” — but I wouldn’t dare) and is not the mini-version of the Phantom that has been showing up lately. This beast is the full monty, the real deal, and it’s head-slappingly gorgeous, if you’re into that sort of thing, which I am. The bag was a gift, and that’s a story for another day, when you and I have a quality Zinfandel and about an hour to kill at an airport bar.
My mother found her pantyhose and that was all we bought the whole time we were at Nebraska Crossing, but we looked around the place for well over an hour, enjoying being together and not working. The last store we popped into was the Michael Kors store. We walked in and were just about to walk out when a twinky young sales assistant approached me.
“Oooh, I love your bag,” he said, eyes fixed on the smooth leather. “It almost looks like Celine.”
“It is Celine,” I said with a smile.
My answer appeared to throw the young man into physical pain.
“NO!” he gasped. “Braden!!!”
A second twinky sales associate levitated over. Both of them were 90lbs soaking wet, both barely in their twenties. They flapped their hands and were jumping up and down, touching my handbag and clutching their chests.
“That is seriously Celine,” said the first young man, fingering the tiny logo at the top of the bag. “Seriously, seriously, seriouslyCeline.” He was almost in tears. He looked at his friend. “Phoebe Philo is life.”*
“Can I hold it??” the second one asked me.
Of course he could, I said, and I let the boys try out the bag. One of them joked that he was going to take off with it and made a little motion of turning and running, which was slightly less funny to me than it was to his friend.
Two other sales associates came over, both girls this time, both every bit as hysterical as their colleagues. I now had a veritable gallery of youth cooing and fluffernutting over my handbag. It was fun for a moment, but then a terrible wave of depression came over me. These kids cared too much about this. I darkened right there before them, though they didn’t know it. To be complimented is one thing; to be conspicuously gagged over for an object you happen to possess is another. It was intensely uncomfortable, being the carrier of such wanton material love.
But I took a breath and allowed it to run its course. Because I know what it’s like to grow up in the sticks and see an artifact From Beyond. When you have your sights on leaving cornfields for skyscrapers, it’s a big deal when a high-rise shimmers into view. You gotta inspect it, you gotta fuel your next year of high school with that image or experience. For some kids on the prairie, it’s music From Beyond that keeps them going. For others, it’s pictures of Istanbul or Belize. For others, it’s fashion. It’s Celine. And it’s not fair to judge a kid for the obsession, not fair to make his love small or light; to him, it’s entirely serious, possibly life-or-death serious.
We left, and my mom, who hadn’t seen the full freakout, said, “What was that all about?”
“Fashion,” I said, and we went to find the car.
*Phoebe Philo is the British designer at the helm of the house of Celine.
One hot August afternoon in the year 2000, I found myself driving a shiny red convertible on a highway in Iowa. I was barely twenty years old, the top was down (convertible top, not my top) and this was a good day because, hey, convertible, and also because it was summer. On top of that, the car had a CD player and I happened to have all my Beastie Boys records with me. Bam!
The car was my mom’s almost-brand-new new toy, but she was allowing me take it to Iowa City for a few days. I was in college then, and that summer I split my time between my hometown and my college town, working as a waitress in both places. I’ve always been a pretty responsible kid and my mother has always been a pretty generous person, so I got the car for a spell. My plan was to rock out, get to Iowa City in one piece, work a few days, and then jam.
That is not what came to pass.
About an hour into the three-hour drive to Iowa City, somewhere between Paul’s Boutique and Check Your Head, I became intimately acquainted with a wild animal.
Out of nowhere — in the middle of the afternoon! — while speeding along Highway 169, my peripheral vision picked up a huge, brownish mass bounding out of the ditch on my right. I was going about sixty-five miles an hour; the huge, brownish mass was matching my speed.
Before I had time to understand what was about to happen, the mass — a 10-point buck, give or take — chose to cross the road. Right that second. Mother’s convertible was in the way, of course, and I was in the convertible. The deer dashed up onto the shoulder and then charged, hard, directly into the road.
In a hideous flash: impact.
Ever been hit by a deer from the side while you’re driving? Ever hit a deer head on? It’s not good. Deer are huge. Even small deer are huge. They’re at least bigger than a Great Dane and Great Danes are enormous. Think about hitting a Great Dane with your car. Now make the Great Dane at least three times bigger with antlers and hooves. Bambi is a lie. Bambi is a cartoon animal with big eyelashes. Actual deer are big, wild, and painfully stupid. And they do not have rabbits as pets. So I’m like:
…as the deer comes up over the side of the car and into the car with me. I felt its bestial heat. Its deer belly was five inches from my face. There came The Great Kicking, and I remember understanding a tremendous amount of weight very near me now, and I remember thinking how much blood a deer probably has and how I was going to know for sure very soon.
“AAAAGGGHHHHHHH! GAAHHHHHHH!” screamed the deer, as he kicked and scrambled over me.
While this is all happening, understand, I’m still driving the car — sort of. I hear plastic shattering and my feet are stabbing at the clutch pedal and the gas pedal and who knows what else. I’m downshifting, I’m pulling over, somehow, and as I’m doing this, the deer clears the car. He came up onto the road, came into the car, and left out the other side.
This is a true story.
When the car finally stopped, there was glass all over me. The deer had all but shattered the windshield; it sagged toward me, crackled into lace. The passenger’s side mirror was in my lap in 10,000 pellets. The entire console of the car was kicked in, totally gone. The Beastie Boys were silent. There was deer hair everywhere. I was taking Italian in school at the time and as I looked at the rape of the convertible, the first thought I had was in Italian for some reason; this probably has to do with my brain not functioning properly or functioning at some adrenaline-boosted peak level. The hair was three distinct colors: dark brown, medium brown, and white, so:
“Tricolore,” I said to myself. “Capelli…deer…e tricolore.”
A woman coming down the road on the other side stopped and helped me. She had seen the whole thing. I wasn’t hurt. I thought my face was bashed in because my chin was wet, but it was just spit that had flown out of my mouth when I was whipping my head around and going:
I used the lady’s phone to call Mom. When I told her what had happened, she did what any good mother would do: she thanked her lucky stars her daughter was okay and called a mechanic. It was no one’s fault; car insurance was deployed. I went onto Iowa City not long after the whole thing was resolved — you can’t keep me down for long.
But to this day, whenever I drive in Iowa (and I have been driving a lot while I’m here for TV) I end up with a terrible pain in my right shoulder. This is because I drive with it hunched up into my neck, subconsciously trying to brace myself for impact.
Here’s what’s happening: Yuri and I have been apart since…too long. He’s in New York. I’ve been crisscrossing the Midwest, flinging fabric around, leaving thread and gum wrappers everywhere. Unable to stand being separated a moment longer, we’ve hatched a logistically-challenged plan to spend about 36 hours with each other in Chicago before Monday comes around and spoils everything. I left Iowa this morning before the sunrise and arrived in Chicago just after it; he’ll begin his trek from the east coast within a few hours. I cannot wait till he gets here. I’m slightly freaking out.
“Yuri,” I texted him, “I’d like to make you something marvelous to eat. It’ll be all ready when you get here. What would you like, darling? Pick anything your heart desires — absolutely anything!”
I watched the little talk-bubble ellipsis shimmer on my iPhone. Then the text popped up:
“Can you make lobster bisque?”
“Absolutely,” I texted back, because though I’ve never made lobster bisque, it’s just soup, right?
Cooking is fun because it’s the closest I get to doing — and enjoying — science experiments. You take a beaker of this, a cup of that, you boil this, you mix that, and blam! stuff changes color, there’s oxidation, titration, solids, and who knows what else, but you can eat everything and people go, “Wow!” and there are no grades.
Here’s what I have very recently learned about making lobster bisque:
It’s expensive. I purchased four lobster tails (roughly 4oz. each) from the fishmonger at Whole Foods, and that came to a little over $35. Then I had to fetch the cream and the stock and so forth. Not cheap — and those little lobster butts don’t yield much. This some fancy soup.
It’s time-consuming. I recommend catching up on emails between steps. You’ll get a lot done.
It’s sorta gross. Have you made lobster bisque? If not, let me tell you a little secret: you puree the shells. The shells are cooked with the soup, y’all, at least in the recipe I used. Lobster bisque is basically a way to drink essence o’ lobster and that means you need to puree, pummel, extract, soak, simmer, reduce, and otherwise distill every morsel of that thing to git all you can git. When I was reading through the process I had to read twice that you use a food processor to puree the dang shells and then return them to the pot. You don’t eat the shells — that orangey muck is pushed through a sieve later — but you’re kind of eating the shells because, well…Cuisinart.
As I was going briskly about my bisque business, I thought about Maine, where “lobstahs” are to Maine folk as deep dish pizza is to Chicagoans: plentiful and fiercely protected.
In the summer of 2007 and 2009, I stayed a month on Maine’s picturesque Little Cranberry Island (known to the locals as “Little Cran”.) My artistic mentor and friend Sonja, along with her husband Bill, founded The Islesford Theater Project (ITP) on Little Cran and they asked me to be involved. Making theater with those people in the summer was a true gift and we made a lot of people happy, I think; whenever the ITP has a show, people from all over the Cranberry Isles get in their boats and skim across the water to come see.
And when you’re in the cast, you get to stay in Sonja and Bill’s house and eat Sonja’s home cooking every night. This is a very, very good thing. Blueberry crisps, tacos, Indian food — that woman can and does cook everything. Well, Sonja can get fresh lobstahs straight from the lobstahmen working about 500 yards from her back porch. She made lobstah mac n’ cheese once, which was transcendental. Once, everyone at the table got a fresh lobstah on a plate. Bam, lobstah on a plate. Dinner was served. There was a dish of melted butter for each of us, shell-crackin’ implements, and a whole lotta napkins. The flavor was incredible, but if I’m honest, I must confess: Whole lobsters kind of gross me out. The whole “sea bug” thing does not inspire hunger in me. And after making this soup, I’m not that excited to eat it. I’m excited for other things.