at least 12 ounces. Possession of, or pretty much having anything to do
with, under-sized lobsters in or out of season will lead to trouble.
Spiny lobsters are an important resource for commercial fishermen
during the winter season when the fishing is uncertain and, particularly
during the festive season, many locals develop a sudden hankering for
This species was not always that desirable. Back in the 1950s and
into the early 1960s, fishing guides and local anglers used to catch spiny
lobsters wholly and solely for use as bait for—get this—of all things,
Bermuda chub. The latter was seen as an important game fish and not surprisingly, the fish had a fancy for lobster. Naturally,
this didn’t last forever and the crustaceans came to
be a delicacy for humans.
There are a number of ways to enjoy lobster.
Obviously, you can buy them or dine out, but
first of all, there is the joyful possibility of being
able to catch your own—up to two a day if you
know how to dive, use a noose and have a licence.
There are certainly those who are willing to
brave the waters around the reefs in search of
a spiny lobster. For this they pay their licence
fee and then have to spend hours exhausting
themselves as they peer into cracks and crevices
in the hope of finding a crawler. There are some who are really good at
this and spend a minimum of time overboard but for many, it is one
long, fruitless labour that almost inevitably winds up with the diver at a
restaurant with lobster on the menu.
Not that this isn’t for the faint of heart either; this is deep-pockets
territory. Generally served on the half shell, half a lobster is all you
get—unless you spring for a whole one. Most restaurants will assure
you that they are local lobsters but that brings us back to the Bermuda/
Caribbean thing. Literally thousands of lobsters are imported as frozen
product from Florida and the Caribbean region where they are an
industry. The exporters grade them out by size, and ship them pretty
much all over the world, with some of them coming to Bermuda. The
grading procedure works pretty well because a case of frozen spinys has
them all looking like peas in a pod—wonderful for chefs who don’t
have to worry about diners eyeing up the lobsters on the plates at the
next table and wondering if someone got a bigger one than they did.
And did you ever wonder how some places always have lobster on
the menu even though there has been a howling gale for a week? Well,
now you have a pretty good idea. It will still taste pretty good though;
it is the exact same species and may well have been better cared for. You
know what you have, you will like it and you’ll be able to honestly boast
to your friends that you had lobster for dinner. Just be sure to crunch up
the shell before sending your plate back to the kitchen. It is well-known
that some unscrupulous restaurateurs used to use fillet of red hind and
other such stuffing to repack the undamaged shells and to serve those
up to the next customer.
Now, the truly brave will go the route of stopping by a roadside
fisherman’s stand and purchasing one or more live lobsters. These will
be local—live ones cannot be imported. If you want to try this, make
sure that the fisherman ties them up well. A lively lobster running loose
in the kitchen can be more problem than you might imagine. They also
show a strong dislike for the boiling water that you drop them into. The
squeamish may feel that letting them go to sleep in the freezer is the
more humane thing to do, but lobsters won’t like it in there either—and
you might want to make sure there aren’t any plastic bags within their
reach that they can shred in their indignation. One fine fellow, who will
remain unnamed, thought that doing them up
on the barbeque would be a novel idea. The lob-
sters thought otherwise and proceeded to crawl
off the grill, much to his embarrassment and the
amusement of his guests!
A few may even forget that they have a lobster
or two in their freezer. That should be no problem; they will keep quite well for a good while.
Care must be taken in their consumption as they
will still taste good, but for some reason dining
on lobster out of season makes neighbours peer
through your garbage and leak reports of your
misdemeanours to the authorities.
Which brings us to the “other” lobsters. There are actually several
species, most of which are unknown to the consumer, but there is one
that stands out. Preferred to the spiny by those deeming themselves
more discerning, this smaller cousin is the guinea chick lobster; in the
old days called star lobster. Darker in colouration and looking like they
spend their time in a spray of white paint, dappled as they are, these
delectable little fellows are much harder to come by. On the plate, they
were said to be sweeter and tastier than their larger cousins.
Guinea chicks live deeper than the spinys, so are out of the reach of
divers and are really only caught in traps. For some reason, almost all
the caught ones are males, so not a whole lot is known about them other than the fact that they make a tasty dish. Best of all, the fishery for
them was originally during the summer when you couldn’t have a spiny
lobster. They were always the province of a very few specialist fishermen
who trapped them and somewhere along the line they must have gone
up in value too. Whereas a serving used to be as many as three whole
ones, now it is down to one or two— if you can get them, that is.
What is really confusing is that relatively recently the powers that be
decided that the guinea chick season should be the same as the spiny
lobster season. That means now you can only have them during the
autumn and winter months. A bit of a nuisance for those of us who like
them, not to mention a bone of contention for the fishermen who have
to decide how to allocate their gear and, probably, for not a few restaurants which are lobsterless in the summer. Still, I should not complain;
they must know what they are doing. But, then again, that wouldn’t be
Bermudian, would it?
one fine fellow, who will
remain unnamed, thought
that doing them up on the
barbeque would be a novel
idea. the lobsters thought
otherwise and proceeded
to crawl off the grill, much to
his embarrassment and the
amusement of his guests!