If you don’t grow up with them, the concept is understandably cause for some puzzling. Lobster meat in a hot dog bun? It’s like nestling a pair of cashmere-socked feet into a pair of old Keds. Which is to say it’s both brilliant and perplexing. If you did grow up with lobster rolls, you know there’s almost nothing better. Close seconds are the plates running over with thinly sliced onion rings. And coming right up after those are the oval-shaped paper plates called platters and filled up with fried clam strips or filet of something and tiny dishes of creamy cole slaw flecked with celery seed. This weekend, I met some of my very best girls for lobster rolls.* In high school a crew of us worked at at a clam shack called a castle. Summers for us smelled of tartar sauce and kitchen grease and the cheap perfume that we wore to mask it. We squeezed into too-small tee shirts and too-small shorts and poured red birch beer out of soda fountains for sunburned customers.
These days, we are practically old ladies. The teenagers behind the counter of our beloved castle wouldn’t recognize us, and the brothers who owned the place then have sold it to someone new. It breaks our collective heart to go there and so this weekend we cheated and went to the rival spot across the street. Talk has turned to babies and vacations and plans for a one-day wedding in India. About a million years seem like they’ve passed since the afternoons in the heat of August when we’d sit under the air conditioner and try to catch glimpses of the cute boys leaving driver’s ed class across the street. From our spot behind the counter we’d share baskets of fries and hatch complicated plans for midnight skinny dipping. At closing, we’d pull straw wrappers to see who had to stay late to mop and then we’d show up to beachy gatherings reeking of fryolator and milkshake.
After all these years, it’s nice to know that it only takes a few minutes and a few plates full of fried seafood to pick up more or less where we left off. Happily that no longer includes mooning over boys at the driver’s ed.
*You might have noticed that things are more or less vegetarian around these tea leaves, but the truth is that I sometimes make fishy exceptions.