All the women in my family are Mainiacs. My wife and our two daughters are graduates of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and they are familiar with the highways and the byways, the landscape and the seascape, the hills, valleys, the food and how to wend your way through Penobscot.
Who knows how many gallons of clam chowder have chugged down their throats, how many lobsters have been required for their well-being?
I myself came late to the chowder-lobster fest.
It wasn’t until my friends and I returned from World War II and glutted ourselves on our mothers’ cooking before we looked at our newly acquired paychecks and decided we could afford to eat out a couple of times a week. One of our favorite restaurants was The Busy Bee on lower West Street, run by the Gamberoni family, and their Friday night special was a baked stuffed lobster dinner for $3.95.
The lobsters were not very big but the first time I put a butter-dunked morsel in my mouth, I was, as the fishermen like to say, hooked. My tutor on eating lobster was my best friend, the late George Garbowit. He knew exactly what to break off from the chassis and where. He not only stripped the tail meat and claws but everything in between. When he was finally finished chucking and shucking, there remained on his plate only the carapace, the bone so thin you could read a book through it.
From then on I tried all kinds of lobsters, mostly steamed or boiled when with purists, but satisfying in every respect. There were a few places in Berkshire County where you could get baked stuffed lobster -- The Springs in New Ashford, Debbie Wong’s when the late Stefan Lorant was your host, and the Dakota, which still owes me 18 bucks on my gift card. These were all OK but the magic was by this time gone.
However, many years ago when my wife was taking our younger daughter to Bates, they arrived in the town of Ogunquit at the noon hour and stopped at a place called Lord’s Harborside Restaurant, which specializes in seafood, especially lobster. They both ordered the hot lobster roll, six ounces of lobster meat drenched in butter. They practically swooned.
My wife promised to get me up to Ogunquit and three years ago she did. We both had the baked stuffed lobster dinners and at the end even one tiny mint would have exploded me like a direct drone hit. We came home and I wrote a column about the incredible feast and its lasting impression on me both piscatorially and weight-wise.
Some reader sent the piece to Lord’s and in my mail a short time later I received a thank you note in beautiful calligraphy and a gift card for $50 from the owners. For three years that note hung on our refrigerator and every time I passed, it brought a growl from my stomach.
At my age, I doubted I would be trekking up to Maine again but my wife kept reassuring me about a definite try.
And this summer was the time. She told me she had booked a room at an inn in Ogunquit and Lord’s was in view in the adjoining town of Wells. Our older daughter heard about the impending junket and complained that she was the only family member who hadn’t had the Lord’s experience.
Praise be. She was invited to share.
So there we were, our first night in Maine, sitting in the waiting room at Lord’s until our name was called. We all ordered the same things, clam chowder and baked stuffed. The clam chowder had an extra ingredient, a whole clam. The baked stuffed had a new ingredient, a large chunk of lobster claw in the stuffed part, as opposed to the usual scallop or two.
We ate, we drank, we got our gift discount and we stumbled out of there, too stuffed to do anything but grab a few breaths now and again.
I never felt so sated in my life and the thought of never eating again was running rampant in my brain.
So here we are home again and guess what is running through my mind. An easy guess. Baked stuffed. But how are they going to get a man my age up to Maine again?
Well, one of our grandsons is considering Bates.
Milton Bass is a regular Eagle