Confessions of a Lobster Killer

WARNING – this content may be offensive to vegetarians, vegans and friends of lobsters.

Much has been made of the new skills people have been learning during lockdown. According to all the social media posts I’ve seen, the population of the UK is going to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic speaking multiple languages, playing numerous musical instruments, indulging Picasso delusions, able to run marathons without breaking sweat, ready to take on Michelin starred chefs and thinking of challenging for the post of the next UN Secretary General.

I, however, am not one of them. To date I have but one new skill to speak of – and to be fair it was somewhat accidentally acquired!

Unable to visit my local farmer’s market in Edinburgh during lockdown I have turned to getting fresh fish deliveries. The company I use sends you a box of whatever they have fresh and available at the time, so you don’t know exactly what you’re going to receive. An excitement, which during lockdown, has been almost unbearable!

This was especially true one particular week when I opened the delivery to discover, nestled at the bottom of some lovely, but relatively uninteresting fish, a lobster – live!

As it swivelled its little eyes towards me and flexed its numerous appendages my initial excitement at the thought of fresh lobster for dinner turned to horror – how was I going to get Jack the Gripper from the state he was in now to something appealing and delicious on my plate??

Apparently, there are numerous choices for killing a crustacean. Who knew?!

According to Gordon Ramsay the best way is to plunge a substantial kitchen knife into the back of the unsuspecting specimen’s neck. I duly placed the lobster on a chopping board, selected my most lethal looking knife and readied myself for the kill. Feet apart, knees slightly bent, knife tightly gripped, I was the very image of a ninja master ready to strike.

It did not go according to plan.

The lobster, sensing weakness, bucked at the first touch of the knife – which to be fair had much more in common with a tentative tickle than a killer blow. Loud screams, racing heartbeat, clammy panic attack later the knife option had to be abandoned.

My teenage son was my partner in crime, and I had always been convinced I could look to him for any required domestic murders, however, the loud screams caused by the frolicking lobster weren’t just mine.

Plan B was required.

Plan B featured a large pan of boiling water, a swift forced dive by Jack the Gripper into said water and my son standing by ready to put the lid on the pan. An unfortunate previous experience of live prawns and their attempts to escape boiling water in a pan had taught me the need for a quickly applied lid. Simple right? Wrong!

We got the water boiling, my son, wearing several thick oven gloves, was ready with the lid and I was clutching a relatively placid lobster in a teatowel. I approached the pan of boiling water with great trepidation. The closer I got to the pan the more my son contorted his body to get away from the lobster. All I had to do was plunge Jack the Gripper into the pan and dinner would be on its way – but I just couldn’t do it!

Resisting the temptation to down a couple of vodka shots to calm my tortured nerves, I furiously googled ‘how to kill a lobster’. Plan C was born.

If only I had realised that Plan C was an option at the beginning of the process! It transpires that the best thing to do is to put them in the freezer for 30-60 mins, as that puts them into a nice gentle sleep. You then pop the sleeping lobster into the boiling water – they apparently don’t feel a thing. It worked a treat. No screaming – from me, my son or the lobster – no unhealthily racing heartrate and no requirement for ninja-like knife skills – or vodka!

I am a big fan of the movie Julie and Julia and the particularly memorable lobster scene – if you haven’t seen it, I would recommend adding it to your lockdown viewing list. I didn’t image I would be a much bigger lobster loser than Julie in the film, but there you go! I am, however, blaming the film for not better educating me about Plan C!

Once Jack the Gripper was humanely despatched to a better place, our resulting grilled lobster with garlic and parsley butter dinner was worth all the stress and drama. Jack was savoured and appreciated.

The moral of the story? Sometimes a Plan B isn’t enough? I am never going to be a fully-fledged knife-wielding ninja assassin? When at first you don’t succeed . . . ? Don’t trust cooking tips from Hollywood?

All or none of the above – but I can say this, thanks to Jack the Gripper, my son and I had a memorable, bonding experience and one of the best meals we’ve ever had.

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