Writing about food, just like almost everything else in our 21st century lives has changed. I don’t know what it is, but much of our current food writing seems to me to be carried out by writers that are more about the art of food, with less awareness about its preparation. Or, if the writer knows his or her way around the kitchen and kettle, then it becomes necessary to pull the “food snob” shtick, which I absolutely deplore.
It seems everyone these days is writing about lobster rolls. There’s the Lobster Gal, who has a new book out, and then, Yankee has another spread on the “best” lobster shacks in New England in their Best of New England issue. There are all manner of varieties of this common narrative—we get it—New England has lots of lobster “shacks.”
While shacks have proliferated, so has the “high-end” variety of lobster rolls. It’s no longer good enough to take fresh lobster, dress it ever so lightly with mayonnaise, and then marry it to a buttered hot dog roll. No, the veritable lobster roll has to have dill and all kinds of other fancy additions—me, I just want a simple lobster roll with little pretense.
I think good writing about any subject, food or otherwise, benefits from writers that bring the experiential to their subject. Of course, with Americans now cooking less than 27 minutes per day, at least according to Michael Pollan, it’s becoming rare to find food writing that doesn’t gush about cooking’s celebrities, and turns food into some manner of performance art. We don’t cook, but we like to watch others cook. That’s just plain weird.
Back to lobster rolls. There’s nothing really difficult about making a quality lobster roll. Yes, you do have to put lobsters into a boiling pot and cook them. And then, to get the succulent meat, you have to pick it out of the shell. Generally, when we buy lobster, Mary and I are more apt to eat every morsel of our cooked lobster, and there’s rarely anything left to make lobster rolls with. However, on the times when we’ve bought a third or fourth lobster (we generally are two lobster apiece people), there is a bit of work involved to end up with a winning lobster roll. So in that regard, I appreciate the effort that goes into making the perfect one.
Food writing that matters for me requires street cred—you actually know something about your dish. From there, it still mostly comes down to subjectivity—what foods do you like and can you communicate your desire through your writing.
Ending on a lobster roll note, Mary and I stopped at Bob’s Clam Hut on Friday. We were in Kittery on our way to Providence, and we thought it as good a time as any for our first lobster roll by Bob’s of the season.
Bob’s didn’t make Yankee’s list of best lobster shacks, but we always have a great experience at Bob’s and their rolls are super (as are their clams, we’re told).
Once again, we were darn glad we stopped, because Bob’s always meets, or exceeds our expectations.
After posting, I got to thinking, who are Maine’s best food writers? Who gets to decide on lists like these? Is it just as subjective as who has the best lobster roll?
I found this really interesting. I’ll leave it at that-
Writer Meredith Goad might be the single most informed foodie in Maine. No one gets more requests to write stories about new restaurants and products, events, people and places. When it comes to being in-the-know, she’s all that and a bag of chips.