As I was perusing the syllabus for today’s lesson over the weekend, I noticed that one of the objectives was that students would successfully “dispatch” a lobster. I recognize a euphemism when I see one. I didn’t suppose that meant we were going to send him out for coffee or to Columbus. The only place we would be dispatching him to would be lobster heaven.
This was the first time I actively killed the thing that I ate. (Save one pike I caught as a kid, but I kind of hated fish at the time and it’s possible I never actually sampled it.) I still get teary-eyed at humane society commercials and randomnly tell pets being walked on the street (dogs and cats alike, this being New York) that I love them. Despite rampant omnivorishness, I do love animals and I’m not particularly interested in the mechanics of slaughter, even while recognizing the importance of closing the mental gap between an animal itself and its form as meat. Pork chops do not grow in cellophane packages in the supermarket. Someone had to slit Babe’s jugular to get them.
But now I’ve got this lobster (Lucas) sitting on the cutting board in front of me, and my options are to let it slowly die from the warmth, or drop it (allegedly screaming) into a pot of boiling water, or do the right thing (given the circumstances) and quickly “dispatch” it.
In one moment I’m scratching the thing’s back to help it relax (perfectly serious), and in the next I have swiftly plunged the tip of my 9″ chef’s knife into a spot just below its head, and quickly pulled the knife down to the cutting board, bisecting its head completely. Instant death.
Part of me wishes I could report here that I was at all squeamish about this, or shed a little tear on the creature’s behalf. Those of you who know me well know that I can be awfully sensitive. But when Chef Allen pointed out we still had a couple of lobsters left in need of dispatching after everyone had already done one, I volunteered. It probably doesn’t hurt that the lobster looks like a slightly larger version of some prehistoric-looking insect that may occasionally be found in one’s shower.