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Women with Fish


Isabella Blow wearing her lobster hat.

I haven’t cooked lobster in quite a while. It has come down in price, and you’d think that would be inspiring, and it is, but the real reason is that I’ve become incapable of bringing a live thing into my kitchen and killing it. I understand this is a sort of retro attitude, with all the farm-to-table philosophy floating around out there in foodie world (especially in Manhattan, wouldn’t you know). But I’ve become a softy, and killing has become so difficult that even waterbugs are too much for my sensitive self. And forget about the occasional mouse that’s idiotic enough to wander into this cat-filled apartment. I’ve found myself snatching them from my cat’s mouth and trying to somehow relocate them out onto the sidewalk. I’m not becoming a vegetarian. I just want someone else, like a professional butcher, to perform my carnage. Maybe it’s got something to do with years of restaurant cooking, years of drowning live eels in vinegar, plunging knives in between lobsters’ eyes, slicing the mouths off soft-shelled crabs. In the kind of quantity that was needed for restaurant service, that all left a lingering feeling of personal genocide in my culinary soul.

But I think I will prepare lobster soon, probably with spaghetti. That way I can feed a group without having to procure a lot of lobsters. And I’ll ask my lobster seller to par-steam them for me. The wimp’s way out. That way they’ll be more or less raw when I hack them up—which is necessary for sautéing unless you want a rubbery lobster—but they’ll already be dead, like the gorgeous specimen on Miss Blow’s hat, and, sadly, like the gorgeous Miss Blow herself. Art certainly has its tragic side, and when the pursuit of it becomes just too sad, I find myself having to step back and let myself be a very good home cook and not always the kitchen artist I’ve at times considered myself to be. Be a good home cook. That is my New Year’s resolution. A new lobster pasta recipe will be up shortly.

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Women with Fish


Victorian postcard of a woman with a fish hat.

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