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Lobster restaurants everywhere. Ayuh. Eat Homarus americanus on its native turf

By John Edward YoungStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / July 8, 1988



Along the Atlantic Coast, Maine

YOU don't have to spend very long in New England before you hear stories of how abundant lobster used to be - way back in olden times. How lobsters as big as tricycles, would wash up on the beach after a storm. Or that early settlers (poor things) had to dine on eight-pound lobsters. They just couldn't afford chicken. My favorite story is by way of Delia Houghton, an elderly maiden lady way down in Roque Bluffs, Maine.

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Miss Houghton would tell how her grandfather, Elisha Schoppee, ``used to go out at low tide with his wooden wheelbarrow and pick up all the lobsters he could find. He'd dump them over the fields for fertilizer,'' she'd say.

Ayuh.

These days, Maine lobsters have become jet-setters, flying off and showing up, albeit briefly, at the finest dining tables here and overseas.

Still, Maine lobster is best and freshest and most fun - guess where? If you're in the area, why not take a day or two to track down some Homarus americanus in their own home town?

Seventy-five miles north on Route 95 from Boston, and halfway over the Piscataqua River Bridge, is the Maine state line. Below is Warren's, a most popular, and certainly the closest, place over the border to crush a claw or two.

Even before you get there, however, you'll spot your first lobsters. They're all over the highway, doing 55 m.p.h., racing north towards the border. Maine issued car number plates emblazoned with red lobsters last summer.

Not everyone approves. ``Don't like 'em,'' one fellow commented, ``The lobsters are too small. They look like bugs. ... They should have made the whole plate in the shape of a lobster or something.''

Never mind. It's the live ones I was tracking down.

A few local folks at Roberts and Daughters Country Store in Kittery highly recommended Chauncey Creek, just up the road at nearby Kittery Point. ``Ron's the owner. He's over there,'' said a carpenter pointing to a man with a red beard wearing an electric-orange ski cap brighter than a lighthouse, and louder than a fog horn.

Ron Spinney was busy inspecting newly painted picnic tables with attached benches. They shone like a rainbow with fresh coats of red, blue, yellow, green, and gray.

But no pot of gold here. No pot of lobster either. ``We're openin' Saturday,'' he said.

Warren's was open, said Ron, but recommended Weathervane ``just a few miles down the road.

``Food's good and fresh. Everything's served on paper products. Nothin' fancy,'' he added.

Ron was right on all counts. Weathervane, on busy Route 1, offered a double boiled lobster dinner for $12.95. This price includes baked or French fried potatoes, rolls, salad, plastic bib, and a sweeping view of the Kittery Trading Post outlet shopping-center across the street.

It's an informal, family-type place. A little too much family this day.

Four-year-old Nicole was celebrating her birthday at the next table. Perhaps celebrating isn't quite the word: Her older brother - by about nine-months - was having a great time chasing our birthday girl with an empty claw shell from their grandmother's lobster.

Another party-boy had discovered that plastic spoons are the perfect catapult for firing cold fried clams at great distances. One clam flew from the birthday table, and landed on a lady's pink sweater at the next table. That did it. Things quieted down after the party group were rounded up and hustled out.

Weathervane is simple, unpretentious, and the food is honest and good and reasonable. I'd recommend it any day except May 4 - Nicole's birthday.

If you want lobsters ``to go,'' Weathervane runs the Red Rock Lobster Pound next door. Karen Hodgdon was behind the counter. She'd been selling lobsters for a year. ``A year this past April Fool's Day. That tells ya somethin','' she said, adjusting her cap.