Actually, this story begins with a Rock Lobster "Tale"...
Needless to say, during the courting phase, the male of the species will do just about anything to capture the attention of the female of his desire. Who am I to be any different?!
Don't remember the details...
WARNING...to anyone who might want to write "the book" someday...keep a diary!
Julie Jones - (I said it was in the courting days!) - somehow let it be known that she had a taste for lobster...yeah, the "bean girl". Well, need she say more...
Not knowing a damn thing about lobsters, I jump in the car and go on a lobster hunt. Keep in mind, this was pre-1973...probably when gasoline was less than $1 a gallon...probably MUCH less! It was also long before the big supermarkets of today, with their seafood sections.
I might start off for Paducah on a Saturday morning in search for my quest. Coming up empty-handed, I'd head up to Carbondale, and, if necessary, return by way of Cape Girardeau...where, oh, where can some lobsters be. To my disdain, I often logged many, many miles to no avail.
On lucky (?) occasions, I would excitedly bag my quarry...frozen rock lobster tails! (Folks...we're talkin' crawdad tails...tiny suckers...narry a decent mouthful for the whole damn tail!) BUT, it was worth it...Julie was pleased!
However, in the years that followed, frozen rock lobster tails no longer rocked. The REAL thing made its appearance in the Heartland...the whole, live Maine thing!Frozen crawdads were no longer acceptable! (How ya gonna keep 'em down on the crawdad farm after they've tasted Lolly!)
Yeah, I got into the habit of naming the lobsters...Larry Lobster, Lucy Lobster, whatever! I would typically approach Julie, with live lobster in hand, claws a flailing, and ask if he/she should be spared. Julie was not impressed. Having seen many a gladiator movie, Julie would immediately give a big "thumbs down" to the latest entry into lobster fest. If Julie would happen to enter the kitchen just as I was getting ready to lower the lobster into the boiling cauldron, I might throw in a final plea on behalf of the condemned. Employing my best high-pitched imitation from the original version of "The Fly", Lolly Lobster would scream "Help me...help me!" Julie would just roll her eyes and extend her right hand...thumb down. I would then don my black hood (okay, I'm taking some poetic license here) and carry out the execution.
So, I'd buy 'em and cook 'em...Julie would eat 'em.
And, that seemed fair to me...never been into the macho eat what you kill thing. Julie would always fix me whatever I wanted...usually a hamburger or a pizza. Hell, as long as I had my beer, I was HAPPY!
It's not that I didn't like the taste of lobster...it was "okay". It's just that I'm CHEAP! Some of the last lobsters we bought were $26 a freaking pound! I did the math...for the cost of Julie's lobster, I can buy a couple of cases of beer, a hamburger or three, and live happily ever after!!!
Speaking of which...
Nantucket Cove in St. Louis...our favorite dining place...Julie for the lobster...me for the pleasure of watching. (We went to the Chicago Nantucket Cove...ONCE. No "ambiance" whatsoever. Also, St. Louis lost us years later...moved locations...acquired the Chicago "atmosphere"!)
Speaking of watching...
Julie was, shall we say, an "experienced" lobster eater. I asked "bean girl" once..."How did you learn to eat a lobster?" Julie claimed that she learned how by reading a book. Well, could have fooled me...and fellow diners. Julie attacked a lobster with extreme confidence. Many a time, adjoining diners would literally stop and stare...finally, asking for pointers at they gingerly regarded their entrée.
On a typical Nantucket Cove night, Julie would order the lobster, baked potato, and cornbread...shaped in some "corny" mold. Without fail, I would order steak and fries. (Incidentally, I would order REAL steak...WELL done. Julie had broken me of my "commoner's" meal years before...CHOPPED steak and fries. Julie had told me that if I ordered chopped stead one more time, she was going to literally let out a scream! I believed her...)
BUT...after literally years of watching, Julie "pushed my buttons". As we were enjoying our pre-dinner order drinks, Julie asks "Which steak are you going to order tonight?" Of course, I COULD have retorted..."Which lobster are you going to order tonight?"...but I did not. Instead, I said something like "I haven't decided." Julie said "Ronnie...if you want...go ahead and order the chopped steak...I won't mind...or scream!" I responded...before it was even fashionable..."Whatever..."
The waiter/waitress appeared and took our dinner requests. Julie ordered...whole lobster, baked potato, and cornbread. My turn...I said "I'll have the same...except, make mine French fries." Julie just sat there...mouth open...dumbstruck.
And, you should have seen her when they brought our meals. Without hesitation, I dove in...rendering the lobster with expert skill. Julie (almost) couldn't eat, as she watched in amazement as I denuded Larry, Lolly, or whomever. Julie looked at me and said "I didn't know that you knew how to eat a lobster!" I responded "Look, I may have a 'commoner's tastes', but I'm not stupid. I've watched you each a hundred of these bugs...I OUGHT to know how!"
Of course, Julie was not one to be shellfish...oops, pardon my pun...SELFISH!
On more than one occasion, Julie threw "lobster parties". Julie would order a whole herd (flock? school?) of lobsters by mail...arriving packed in dry ice. My job, of course, was to get the "turkey fryer" cranked up...how else are you going to cook a dozen lobsters?! Julie would take care of the "fixin's" and I would take care of the lobster preparation...drink one beer while the water is heating...drink two beers while they are cooking, drink one beer while making sure the timing is right. After that, cut those suckers in half and stand back...possibly drinking another beer. (Oh, I WOULD break down and eat some corn-on-the-cob, a baked potato, some cornbread...if anybody noticed or insisted. Hey, I was happy...Julie was having the time of her life!)
This cartoon was (actually, still is) posted on our refrigerator.
Looking at the date...Julie was born on August 17th...it served as a constant "reminder" of what Julie would like for her birthday dinner!
A not-so-happy footnote...
As I have indicated previously, with Julie's passing, I have gotten into "signs". In retrospect, the signs that something was terribly amiss during the summer of 2007 were obvious...
In July, Julie asked for lobster..."Maybe it will perk up my appetite", which had been on the wane.
Without hesitation, I jumped into the car and headed for Carbondale. (They had Wal-Mart, but they also had Schnuck's as a back-up...didn't want to come home empty-handed.)
All was well with the world...got a nice, fat lobster...almost two pounds...and only $14.95 per pound!
Got home...cooked it up...served it up.
Julie only ate half the lobster, but that was fine...I mean it was a big one, and she had been "off her feed". However, when a couple of days passed and she expressed no interest in the other half...
In August, BEFORE our ill-fated trip to the hospital...I asked Julie if she would like a lobster for dinner. Without much enthusiasm, she said yes.
Julie picked at her lobster, apologized, and said "Maybe tomorrow..."