One of the reasons we’ve been looking forward to visiting New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island was that this region of the world is famous for its seafood, particularly P.E.I. mussels, steamer clams, and of course, the much coveted lobster. When envisioning this trip, I imagined eating lobster and mussels every day while here. While that’s indulgent, it can’t get any fresher than it is here, and since it’s local, it’ll be far, far cheaper than eating it back in New York, where frankly, it never tastes as good, and it’s always so expensive for so little. It also helps that the U.S. dollar is currently quite strong against the Canadian dollar.
Originally, I’d signed us up for a lobster catching tour on Thursday evening, but because of the torrential rains, the boat trip got cancelled. We were lucky to be able to reschedule to the afternoon tour today, and somehow, the skies remained blue for us to board the boat. The tour guide and boat owner actually conducts the tour on his own fiberglass lobster-catching work boat, and while he educates us on the boat excursion about the lobster catching industry (which is the top fishing industry in PEI), he also talks about conservation, the laws around fishing, and the life of lobsters. I had no idea how expensive lobster catching licenses in the PEI area were (as of now, they range anywhere from $900,000 to over $1 million!). Mark said that today, his license is probably worth about $900K, and it will likely only grow in value. And there’s a government regulated set number of licenses that exist that cannot change; that means that once a lobster fisherman decides to retire, that’s the only time a new person can get a lobster catching license in this province.
Lobster season happens twice a year in PEI, from May to June, then again from August through November. And of the many thousands of eggs a female lobster lays, only about 10 percent of them end up surviving to adulthood; that means that even less than 10 percent make it to full adulthood so that they’ll be ready for my belly.
The funniest thing about knowing how expensive and coveted lobsters are today is that once, they were considered food for the low-class; people used to take lobster meat, grind it up, and spread it on their lawns as plant fertilizer. The world has evolved quite a bit since then. There’s certainly no shortage of lobster in this region of the world now.
I’ll be honest: I always imagined doing a lobster catching tour so that we could actually catch the lobsters to then cook on the boat, but it doesn’t look like this region offers opportunities like that.. It’s even possible no place is like that anymore given how heavily regulated the lobster fishing industry is. I knew that going into this. Here, we were educated on the general process, taken out to see the crab and lobster traps out on the water, and then served prepared lobsters for us.
The lobster lunch is served PEI-style, which means it’s served cold, cooked in salt water, then chilled in an ice bath. I’d never eaten lobster cold, but this lobster was probably one of the tastiest lobsters I’ve ever eaten in my life. I usually think the claw meat is the inferior meat to the tail (since everyone wants the tail meat), but for these PEI lobsters… I wouldn’t say that at all. I actually enjoyed the claw meat just as much as the tail meat. It had amazing texture, not rubbery at all – succulent is the best word to describe it. And the meat was savory yet sweet at the same time. Every bite was like a little song in my mouth. Chris raved about the claw meat and just how delicious this lobster was, even as he struggled to suck all the meat out of the little tentacle-like legs.
There’s certainly a glory in globalization in that we can eat things like lobster, grapes, mangoes, and other exotic delicacies year round, even when they are out of season and not grown in our local cities and towns. But there’s a purer glory in experiencing local foods in local areas the local way. Today’s magic and delight was about the latter.