I have always loved lobster. The memory of my first experience of biting into the lush white meat has been lost amid other memories of growing up in the sun and salty air of the Jersey Shore, but the taste of lobster is intricately bound to my childhood. Every summer we ate freshly caught lobsters, steamed in my mother's big black kettle, then dipped in bowls of melted butter and popped, dripping, into our mouths. My brothers, sister and I learned to rip open the body and pick out every shred of meat. My mother sighed at the mess, but to us it was delicious summer fun.
Food was always an important ritual in my family. Within the context of suburban American cooking in the 1950s, you could say we were somewhat eccentric. I remember so vividly eating woodcock for my father's birthday; blowfish tails for Mother's Day; shad roe to celebrate the beginning of spring; mussels, blue crabs, Jersey corn and Jersey tomatoes on the Fourth of July. There were so many feasts in our family that we had to be creative to find a special occasion to merit one.
After high school I found myself so intrigued by the complex nature of flavors I decided to become a chef. I enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. There I was introduced to the great French classics: Lobster Americaine and Lobster Thermidor. Suddenly, the food I had eaten growing up became part of a larger world of possibilities. After graduation, I spent a few years "cooking around" in restaurants in New York, Florida, California, Washington and Montana. Wherever I went, my knowledge increased, but I yearned for the tastes I grew up with. While cooking in San Francisco, I met my life's companion, Nancy. In 1978 we moved back east to Rhode Island to be close to her family. Shortly after starting a job at the Biltmore Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island, I was offered a better position with the same company at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. As chef of the Cafe Plaza, the hotel's formal dining room, I soon learned what it meant to cook in Boston: It meant cooking lobsters, and lots of them! At last I had returned to the food of my childhood.
Five years later, in 1983, I opened my own restaurant, Jasper's. It served local fish and shellfish. Lobster was the most popular item on the menu. I cooked it in every way imaginable; many of the recipes in this book were created there. During the twelve years that Jasper's was in business, I learned how the seasons affect lobsters. I learned about methods of lobster fishing and what factors go into the changing market prices. I learned that good cooking means understanding the food you prepare; no fact or idea about lobster is unrelated to its cooking. And I learned that knowledge makes your food taste better.
This book is the result of what I've learned so far about lobster. Too often we reserve it for eating in a restaurant or pass over it in the market in favor of what we think of as more easily prepared food. In this book I hope to show you how easy and rewarding it can be to cook lobster at home.
Copyright © 1998 by Jasper White