Monday, August 10, 2009

Lobster Fest

So why are Officers Lariz and Smith looking so pleased? It could be because they are making some extra money working the Lobsterfest detail on Duval Street this past Saturday. Or it could be because they wanted their mugshots on Key West Diary.They were feeling the heat standing in front of the Bull at Caroline Street, while some of the lobsters at the street fair were, temporarily doing quite well in a tank of seawater on a very hot August afternoon with temperatures hitting 100 degrees (38C):
The fate of the lobsters is an unhappy one at Lobsterfest, as they destined for a paper plate, boiled or grilled but either way they aren't scheduled to survive the day:It's quite the scene on Duval Street with shade tents set up on the west side of the street for five blocks, and each place offers Florida lobster provided, according to the Citizen newspaper by my favorite fish place, Fishbusterz on Stock Island.

Traditionally Key West is starting to go dead in August, as American kids are planning their return to school, and Europeans are the mainstay of tourism until September arrives and the town dies down completely. This year Key West is working harder than ever to attract visitors with lower room rates and well organized events. It seems to be working. At this street fair, lobster was on the menu but Arts and Crafts were in a close second place: Lobster mini season saw several amateur divers lose their lives hunting for lobster. Now the commercial season has kicked in and fishermen are sounding gloomy about their prospects. A year ago Florida lobster sold for $7 a pound, the rate this year is around $3 according to the Citizen newspaper.and the fishermen say they need more than $4 a pound to make any kind of money at all. Nevertheless the lobster exact their revenge. This incautious cook dunked his hand in boiling water with predictable results:
The popularity of this event is amazing to me, who doesn't much relish lobster. I caused some annoyance once by describing lobster meat as string cheese with a fish flavor. So I eat it with relish when it is offered to me as a treat... but I'm not like these folk crowded on Charles Street enjoying their meals in the open air under the benign eye of Officer Carson:
Not tempted by the nature of the food I strolled around taking pictures and watching the hustling crowds. It was good to see Key West acting busy:
It would be remiss of me not to note the stands devoted to good works, which show up in the midst of the acres of commerce:
But the real deal here is eating the crustacean of course, and not necessarily while sitting down: Me? I prefer to sit and eat as God intended, round the campfire tearing the meat off the bone with bare hands. Or failing that, plastic cutlery:Florida lobster aren't like the more familiar Maine type that have the big claws. These things look like over sized crawfish and they are pretty much defenseless. They hole up under rocks and are usually spotted when their antennae can be seen sticking out of the hole. Then the intrepid diver goes in with a stick and wiggles them out. Left unmolested they can live to be 120 years old.
City Commissioner Mark Rossi owns Rick's bar and he was out in the street waving his tongs around and i think it was probably more fun doing that than deep frying conch fritters in this heat:And at some point even the most avid lobster eater has enough and needs to sit back and reflect on what went before:Good friends, good eats:And here we have a group of future leaders of America getting ready to chow down:
For me it was time to get to the salt mines and spend a night keeping Key West safe; Officer Smith was still there, still chatting cheerfully with the visitors, keeping things cheerful at Lobsterfest:I can't help but think I probably should have tried a grilled lobster kebab, at least one, with some melted butter and an ice cold soda. I'm such a puritan.