Friday, April 1, 2011
We have a tradition in our family in which the birthday boy or girl gets to choose anything they want me to make for a birthday dinner. My son almost always wants king crab, which isn’t too much of a problem since we live in Alaska and those sweet spiders (yes, they are arthropods, just like spiders!) are relatively inexpensive compared to, say, lobster. Of course, this year, my son decided he wanted to try lobster. So with a groan, I forked out the money for lobster tails.
I’ve never cooked lobster before, so I got online to find instructions. Ruining them by cooking them improperly would be unacceptable. Apparently, you can cook lobster a lot of different ways, so I opted for baking, since the tails would curl if I steamed them. I also discovered that with live lobsters, to keep them from curling you can submerse them in beer to get them to “relax” before you cook them! That experiment might have almost been worth the extra money for live lobsters.
As I was preparing the baking sheet, my daughter remarked, “Mom, I thought lobsters were red.” And I realized these weren’t. Why not? Was there something wrong with them?
Again, a trip to the computer. (What did we do in the days before the Internet?) After a bit of searching, and a side trek where I learned why fish smell “fishy” and how lemon juice works to chemically reduce the odor, I learned that heat denatures all the color proteins in the lobster shell except for the red one. So after cooking, all that is left is the stable, red pigment that was there all along. Interesting topic while we ate dinner.
A guest commented on how she had learned more science at that dinner than she had in a long time, and I realized – well, I realized maybe I’m weird. But I’ve always had an inquisitive mind. It’s why I write science fiction. My mind is always asking these kinds of questions. No matter what else I am doing. I love to know why things work the way they do, particularly biological systems. Writing sci-fi is a joy for me, because I get to research “why,” and I get to hypothesize “what if.”
I wonder if I could find a way to put lobster people in my next manuscript …
In the future, survival carries a steep price ...