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never ever ever ever google your food

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especially while you're eating it.
i made that devastating mistake this evening. let's just call the incident a life changing event.
about twice a month i go grocery shopping - and i mean hardcore grocery shopping - the kind where i make a list and stock up on stuff like frozen goods, canned goods, dry goods, etc, and i leave the fresh meats, fresh produce and baked goods for weeknight shopping; i'd rather buy the meat i'm preparing for dinner on the day i'm planning to prepare it. that's the sort of shopper i am.
about two weeks ago, i did my most recent power-shopping at my favorite grocery store and bought scads of frozen things - i am single, after all, and must have some conveniences in my life - and amongst the items in my freezer for the last two weeks has been a package of lobster. lobster tail. "great!" i thought to myself when i found it in the seafood counter's freezer case. i love lobster! i know nothing about lobster, including how to prepare it at home; i know how to eat it at a restaurant, and that's the extent of my lobster prowess. but really, how bad can frozen lobster be?
tonight when rummaging around the fridge and cabinets and freezer looking for something to whip up as this evening's dinner, i came across that fabulous bag of lobster tails! "great!" i thought to my self, a second time. man, i sure love lobster. i'll be livin' it up as a single gal! i can't wait to ask the poor bastards at work tomorrow what they had for dinner tonight. suckers! probably spam or tuna helper or fried bologna. not me. no sir, i'm havin' LOBSTER!
i fired up my george foreman grill (i love my george foreman grill, i do.) and reached in the freezer for the bag of lobster. i think that was the first time i really took a good look at the package they were in; for the first time since buying this treasure of lobstery goodness, i read the words "squat" and "chunks" in very small print. the actual name of the product i had purchased and was about to prepare was "squat lobster tail chunks". squat? oh. well, that's just the species of lobster, i guess. sort of like crab. there's dungeoness, my favorite. and king, and alaskan. apparently there is maine lobster, rock lobster and squat lobster. makes sense.
i opened up the package, reached inside and pulled out this pinkish, frozen "chunk" of "squat" lobster. the shape was odd. i pulled out another. same shape. familiar shape. then another. exactly the same shape. i grew increasingly suspicious of this bag of lobster delightfulness, and was hit with a revelation; i did know this shape. i took one of the chunks to the freezer and plopped it into an ice cube compartment in my ice tray and guess what? it fit perfectly. like a glove. i started to read the packaging even more carefully.
"100% pure squat lobster tail chunks, pressed and molded, flash frozen from fresh." it was very small print.
so they gypped me in the presentation department. they could have at least made them mcnugget shaped so they'd be a little less recognizable as lobster-cubes. that seemed a little cheesy. could i live with it? hell yes i could, it's lobster. if i haven't made it abundantly clear: i.love.lobster.
i grilled those little gems up on the g.f. grill, and toasted a bagel (i love bagels, i do.) and whipped up a little garlicky-lemony-butter in which to toss my little lobster blocks. since i have a lot of photo editing to do, i thought i'd just take the whole lot into the bedroom, watch a movie and eat while working on my laptop. great idea, i'll call it a working dinner for one. still, there was something nagging at me the whole time; what the hell is "squat lobster"?
the texture was somewhat like that of lobster tail, as i recall; not what i'd call delicate really, but not chewy. it had firmness, it was slightly sweet, and it had cute little grill marks on it from the g.f. grill. i plowed on.
a little more than halfway through dinner, that nagging question had not yet subsided even though my mind was mostly trained on work, then it dawned on me that i was on my computer; i had the world at my fingertips. google! i googled "squat lobster".
i should have never googled squat lobster.
more specifically, i should have never googled squat lobster while i was eating squat lobster.
heh. turns out "squat lobster" isn't really so much lobster as it is SOMETHING ELSE THAT IS NOT LOBSTER. it's not even in the lobster family. it comes out of the water, and that's where the similarities end.
those curious little pink ice-cube shaped pressed chunks of squat lobster tail came from a crustaecean that doesn't even posess a tail. as i mentioned before, it's not tail, it's not lobster... it's crab. and it's not just any crab either; it's closest relative is HERMIT CRAB. tonight, for dinner, i had what might as well be hermit crab and a nice toasted bagel with a schmeer. oh dear sweet jesus i just ate hermit crab, and now i want to die.
i made the additional mistake of looking at a few photos of hermit crabs, errrr squat lobsters online, which only made it worse for me. that'll teach me about reading packaging in the grocery store a little more closely in the future, as well as nearly everything i currently have in the fridge, freezer and every cabinet and cupboard in my house.
from now on, unless i witness it swimming in a tank moments before i consume it, i will not be partaking of anything with the name lobster.

5 Responses to “never ever ever ever google your food”

  1. Anonymous Michael 

    My dear Melissa, my apologies....as I was reading your blog, I could not keep myself from giggling just a bit. Not at you, but at the food marketers who sit in a boardroom and intentionally take advantage of certain common names given to fish species (not given by them) in order to market that particular product as if it were the popular variety of the species it refers to. I feel for you and the countless other number of consumers who I know of that have been P.O. 'd by similar seafood experiences. It is a sad commentary in retail (seafood or otherwise) that manufacturers/processors feel the need to prey on our trust (misguided as it is) and ignorance in order for us to purchase their products. But they do, and we do.

    On the other hand, I am guessing that based on the "fine print" you mentioned, that you were not actually "misled". Small comfort I know, and I realize you didn't suggest that you were misled. But it sure did feel like it, didn't it. I have been in the seafood business for 15 years, and started specifically in the lobster trade from the heart of "lobster country", right here in Atlantic Canada. Did I mention..."I love lobster too"...hahaha....But the fact is many other products use similar tactics. For example, "Surimi", looks like crab meat sticks, tastes like crab, but it's actually crab flavored pollock, or in some cases, "whiting". The "squat lobster" is commonly utilized as a seafood (lobster) meat ingredient in seafood salads etc, both in retail and foodservice.....I know, your thinking "yuk, how many times have I eaten that hermit crab creature at all those wedding receptions"...I actually find the squat lobster to be better looking than it's cousin the hermit crab....I mean, as far as good looking crabs are concerned....

    Have to run. Too bad on the timing, I will be putting up a web site around the 1st of May, or a little earlier. It would be perfect for individuals (prey) like yourself and some of my neighbors. It will specialize on shellfish, primarily recipes with a bunch of useful information. I definitely will touch on the "squat lobster" issue....

    I wish you well in your future seafood experiences, but don't be turned off of lobster. I see your from Texas and "crawfish" is popular in the area. But a true lobster, or any meat product from it is only real lobster if it goes by the common name of "American Lobster", and more specifically, or should I say, scientifically, by the name "homarus americanus". That is the real lobster of the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

    All the best,

  2. Anonymous melissa mcgee 

    michael - thank you for your very informative comment - you're right; i did feel a little bit misled, but i felt more stupid than anything else for *not* having read the product when i purchsed it. when i get in power-shopping mode, it's a little bit like a hit and run shopping accident. i grab & toss grab & toss grab & toss...

    i think i have learned my lesson - and will mostly likely enjoy lobster again in the not too distant future: in it's shell, at a restaurant!

    american lobster, that is.

  3. Anonymous matt 

    What's in a name? Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Would a hermit crab still taste like lobster if it was labeled accordingly?

    This sure speaks to the importance of food labels and consumer knowledge. I'm in the food business and I generally believe people are an honest bunch, but things like imitation Krab® meat, food colorings, cheap caviar and Quorn® deserve a second look.

    You know me, I"ll eat anything and everything, but c'mon peoples, JUST BE UPFRONT!

    Remind me to treat you to REAL lobster when you are in California next. REAL.

  4. Anonymous melissa mcgee 

    oh matt... real lobster? i am THERE.

    i love lobster, as i mentioned... and have been sorely short on finding it lately! ;)

  5. Anonymous Michael 

    Heh Matt....It's Michael (from above)....hahaha, I mean above in this blog, not above as in "Heaven"....I hope Melissa takes you up on that Lobster offer....Juts wanted to say I agree with you on your comment that some of these seafood items deserve a second look. Although, I admit, I utilize crab flavored pollock (surimi)in many recipes. And your right, Hermit Crab would not taste (nor sell) like lobster if it was labelled as such. Having said that, I can tell you that the "ugliest" fish ever marketed (monkfish) is a dead ringer for lobster in terms of taste and texture. Up here, we call it the "poor mans lobster"....So, what are ya gonna do...huh?....I guess we should just keep eating ugly things that taste good, as long as they don't show us a picture, or call it what it is. Or do we????......Heh Melissa, weigh in on this too if you can. Anyway, Matt, enjoy sunny California, lobster or no lobster...it's a great place to be.

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  • I'm melissa mcgee
  • From Temple, Texas, United States
  • photographer. singer. soapcrafter. herbalist. dogmom. godmother. fantastic cook. i kiss better than i cook. [all photographs on this blog copyright melissa mcgee unless otherwise noted.]
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