"Tis the voice of the lobster; I heard him declare,
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Oh my. Lobster. This marine crustacean is so ugly and so good tasting that words fail. Male or female, this babe has five pairs of jointed legs, and (in the homards) the first pair carries the distinctive big claws--always of unequal size. Charles Kingsley in The Water Babies (1863) had this to say about it:
"All the ingenious men and all the scientific men, and all the imaginative men in the world could never invent, if all their wits were broiled into one, anything so curious and so ridiculous as a lobster."That said, at the age of five, a lobster has attained a size of 5 inches, and that's only after shedding the exoskeleton of its tail some 20 times.
As adults, lobsters crawl forward quickly--and swim backwards even faster, thanks to the action they get from their segmented abdomen and tail. Sideways? No. Neither do they fare very well trying to hump around on land...although that didn't deter the odd French Romantic poet Gerard de Nerval (1808-1855) who, to justify his taking a lobster on a walk--on a blue silk leash--in the gardens of the Palais Royal, expostulated: "Why should a lobster be any more ridiculous than a dog...or any other animal that one chooses to take for a walk? I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. They know the secrets of the sea, they don't bark, and they don't gnaw upon one's monadic privacy like dogs do. And Goethe had an aversion to dogs, and he wasn't mad."
The U.S. North Atlantic lobster is called Homarus americanus. It's found from Labrador to North Carolina, but rarely in the south--in fact, it's most common off Maine and Massachusetts shores. Its European cousin is pretty much a dead ringer. The American one is dark mottled blue-green in the water; the European one dark blue tinged in purple. Both turn bright red when cooked. The females (hens) are prized for the flavor of their flesh, as well as for their roe--tender eggs located on the underside where the body and tail meet. These redden during cooking and are consider an outstanding addition to sauces and soups and garnishes. French connoisseurs call these gravid hens paquettes and, yes, lust after them, they're that good.
Spiny or "Rock" lobsters--also called langouste are sea crayfish of the genus Palinurus. (Louisiana crayfish or crawdaddies are a freshwater variety.) No claws on these. They're found mostly in the warmer seas of both hemispheres--Florida, California, Australia, South Africa, and the Mediterannean, for example. And they are naturally colored anywhere from tan to orangey-red to maroon.
Lobsters are a low-fat source of high quality protein. They're low calorie--and their high mineral content is good for bones and teeth as well as for the immune system; for reproductive health (that's the zinc in it); and for metabolism (magnesium). They're an excellent source of vitamin B12; contain folates; and besides the zinc and magnesium, contain potassium and calcium.