We dropped off our daughter at the campsite she would call home for the next two weeks. For an hour I stared out the car window, worrying if she could handle that heavy backpack, kayaking in rugged water. . . . Then I saw it, and thoughts of all else vanished. A disheveled white shack bearing a worn out sign, “Lobster Rolls Clam Rolls Lobster,” looked as though it might be home to the perfect lobster roll.
No summer trip to Maine is complete without a lobster roll. It is Maine’s version of fast food. The “clam bars” sprinkled throughout the state generally sell clam rolls (fried clam sandwiches, but that’s a whole other story) and lobster rolls “to go.” In the summertime, when there are plenty of clams to dig and the lobster pots come in full, tourists and residents alike line up at the windows of these roadside shacks.
We were on a quest to find the perfect Maine lobster roll on that drive home. We knew just what we were looking for: big sweet chunks of speckled lobster meat wearing the lightest veil of mayonnaise and enveloped by a golden, buttery toasted hot dog roll. We stopped at every roadside shack. Like new parents, we’d gingerly carried our precious roll, swathed in waxy white paper or folded into a coarse napkin, back to the car. Each time we hoped this would be it: The Holy Grail of Lobster Rolls.
We tried them all. One mixed lobster with celery and carrots (what were they thinking?), cayenne and Old Bay; others had so much mayonnaise we could barely taste the lobster. It came on white bread (ugh), Kaiser rolls (too much bread) and hamburger buns. We began to doubt the perfect lobster roll still existed. Our low point came when we saw a McDonald’s marquee advertising its lobster roll. We had to know. We pulled the sandwich out of the clown-clad bag and, slumped in lobster roll despair, took one bite. We tossed the rest.
We never did find lobster roll nirvana on that trip, but we came close. Late in the afternoon when our bellies were full, we spotted an unpainted clam bar off the road a bit. The roll came on a flimsy paper plate barely able to hold the weight of all that nearly naked lobster meat. Our spirits lifted. The lobster was tender and sweet . . . but alas, the roll was not buttered. I’m sure if we kept looking, we’d have found perfect lobster rolls in plenty of roadside stands. We just didn’t that day. But the quest made me finally write down exactly how to make the quintessential Maine lobster roll.
Just as important, it kept my mind off the ferocious bears lurking outside my daughter’s campsite.
By Marge Perry.