In 2004, for our second annual Birthday Fiesta O’ Fun, Sara and I decided on the theme of Seafood and Chocolate. This was before we started documenting each step of our BFOF with photographs, contracts and fully planned menus. We flipped through cookbooks and picked out recipes that sounded good. One recipe we both immediately decided on was Lobster Bisque.
Our birthdays fall in August, right smack dab in the middle of hurricane season and 2004 was an active year in Florida. That was the year Florida got hit with five storms: Bonnie, Charley, Ivan, Frances, and Jeanne. Two of the storms, Bonnie and Charley hit Florida within 24 hours of each other and came close to ruining our birthday dinner.
Jim Cantore was on the Weather Channel being pummeled by high winds and rain reporting on Bonnie’s aftermath and Charley’s impending landfall and projected path. Tropical Storm Bonnie was casting her outer bands across the area and Hurricane Charley was hot on Bonnie’s heels. Most of the grocery shopping for our birthday dinner was done. Sara and I watched while we prepped for the dinner (which was going to be the following day) in the kitchen of my small apartment. Scott was still at work and the girls were playing in their room. The only thing left to do was to buy the lobsters. I had put it off until the last minute since we needed them alive and kicking.
“You know,” I said to Sara, “I think I should go get the lobsters tonight.”
Sara looked out the window. Rain pelted the glass and just beyond we could see the trees swaying like dancers on a stage.
“Right now?” She asked.
“Yeah.” I said washing my hands off. “It’s not too bad right now. And they’re saying Charley is going to be worse.”
“You watch the girls and I’ll be right back.”
I threw on my flip-flops, grabbed my keys, purse and umbrella and took off into the storm. The wind in the breezeway of the apartment whipped my hair wildly and even though I had it pulled back, strands came loose right away. I didn’t bother with the umbrella figuring that the wind would just rip it from my hands anyway. I made a run for the car and before I had gone three steps, I was completely soaked. Unlike the thunderstorms I was used to this rain attacked from all angles slashing and cutting through the air.
The drive to Wal-Mart (the only store that I knew carried live lobster) was only about three miles but it took me nearly twenty minutes. Wind buffeted the car and even with both hands gripping the wheel I struggled to maintain control. I could barely see through the windshield despite the wipers flying back and forth.
The parking lot was practically empty, an unusual sight on any other day, but expected this night. I hardly saw any other cars on the roads and certainly people had already prepped for the storms. I ran from the car my flip flops squishing and splashing water up the back of my legs. I paused just inside the door to try to clear my glasses and took in the chaos I was not expecting! Employees ran around the produce section throwing apples and lettuce into boxes and crates and wheeling them into the back room.
“Attention shoppers,” the P.A. system thrummed, “Due to the weather conditions, Wal-Mart will be closing in thirty minutes. Please make your final selections and check out.” The message repeated and a line of shoppers began to form at the check out.
I squished over to the seafood department. The shrimp and fish from the display case had already been pulled, the ice cleared out and all was dark. The lobster tank bubbled cheerfully in the middle of the floor and I saw that the top had already been locked.
“Who’s going to steal a lobster?” I mumbled.
I looked around trying to find an employee to help me. An older man in a blue vest bent over shelves of chicken, pulling packages of Perdue chickens from the display and putting them in a shopping cart. No one else was around.
“Excuse me,” I said as I approached. “I need some help in the seafood department.”
The man stood up and turned a frown on his face. “What?”
“I need some lobsters.”
“Miss," he said, "the store is closing.”
“Yes,” I said patiently, “I heard. I just need a few lobsters.”
The man turned back to the chicken. “I’m sorry, miss, I can’t help you. The store is closing.”
I walked up to him and touched his arm. “Sir, I’m sorry, but it is a matter of life and death that I get two lobsters tonight.”
He smiled slightly unsure if he should be concerned or amused. “Life and death?”
“Yes,” I said stepping back. “It’s my birthday and I need two lobsters. Right now.”
He looked skeptical. “Do you need me to steam them?”
“Oh no!” I laughed. “I’ll kill them myself.”
“I don’t even know if I can get into the tank.”
“Please?” I wasn’t ashamed of begging. I wasn’t leaving the store without lobsters.
He went into the back and brought out a plastic bin. He fiddled with the tank lid for a few minutes. He didn’t even try the lock instead he just lifted the whole lid off to the side. I pointed out the two lobsters that I wanted and he fished them out. Over the counter I watched as he weighed the crustaceans and wrapped them tightly in Saran Wrap. I tried to stop him from that, but he was intent on “containing” them. He tossed the wrapped lobsters into a brown paper bag, printed out a barcode and stuck it to the outside.
“Thank you,” I said as he handed the bag to me. He smiled and nodded and retreated back to his chickens.
I made my way to the registers. I stood quietly in the 10 Items or Less lane and when it was my turn I placed the bag on the conveyor belt. The woman at the register smiled a polite hello to me and picked up the bag.
“I thought the seafood department was closed already,” she said as she looked at the barcode.
“It is.” I replied.
She frowned at me and opened the bag. “Oh my God!” she cried. “They’re alive!”
“What are you going to do with them? Eat them?” Her eyes were wide and her mouth puckered in disgust.
I paused, slid my debit card through the machine and shook my head.
“No. I’m with PETA.” I told her. “I’m setting them free. But I can only afford two at a time.”
She handed me my receipt and lowered her eyes. “Oh.” She mumbled. “Well, thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart.”
The Lobster Bisque is now referred to as Hurricane Bisque and we vowed to make it whenever a hurricane came through or at the end of the hurricane season. Here are a few photos of our most recent Hurricane Bisque.
|The box it was in made the photo so blindingly white!|
|We name our lobsters every time and I bet Sara will remember them...I think they were French Canadian lobsters this year.|
|In the move, I must have lost my crackers. A hammer was an easy replacement!|
|Starting the stock. You have no idea how seriously wonderful this smelled!|
|The stock is bubbling away! Holy Delicious Aroma!|
|Bisque is a cream based smooth soup, so the stock was strained twice to make sure it was so silky smooth!|
|Cream and lobster meat get added just at the end of the cooking process.|
|The first bowl. Oh. My. Yum!|