Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Lobster Sushi! Lobster sushi?

This is not the lobster you're looking for.
Photo credit Used with permission.
So. Way back in the fast and loose '90s when I was living in Hotlanta I frequently ate at a Japanese restaurant called Sakana-Ya (RIP).  Sakana-Ya had great sushi but I never tried their lobster sushi, mainly because whenever I saw it prepared it looked like something best shared with friends. So that's what I did.

And I was right.

I gathered six or so friends together and we went to Sakana-Ya one Friday night for lobster sushi, Japanese beer, and good times. We had all three (and maybe some sake too).

After we ordered drinks, (Kirin Ichiban, anyone?) we gave the waitress our sushi order. We did include the typical items (ebi, toro, salmon, etc.) but the big one was the lobster sushi. And we were in a good location to watch it prepared.

The sushi chef plucked a plump lobster from the aquarium and rinsed it off in the sink at the sushi bar. A quick chop and he separated the tail from the body, which he put aside. He cleaned the tail some more and extracted and prepared the meat. The chef placed the tail shell upside down on a platter with the meat on top, an appealing display. Then he took the body and placed it in front of the tail, as if the lobster was intact. As if it had somehow twisted its tail 180 degrees and turned it inside out.

The waitress brought the platter and set it in the center of our table. That is when I realized there was one significant aspect of lobster sushi I had missed when watching from a distance.

The lobster wasn't dead yet.

While I didn't have a big problem eating the lobster while it watched me chew, some of the others at the table were a bit disconcerted when its antennae and legs kept moving. We did find out another reason they put those rubber bands on the lobster's claws. You don't want it reaching up to pluck tail meat out of a customer's chopsticks. "That's mine! Give it back!"

Only one other aspect of the outing stands out. The waitress noticed our discomfort and offered to take the lobster back and put it in soup. We all agreed and ate the other sushi while we waited. A few minutes later the waitress brought the soup out. They had chopped the lobster into chunks, shell and all, and cooked it in a very tasty soup.

My final verdict: The lobster sushi was a bit salty but it made a great soup. Would I do it again? Probably, if I could get another group together to share the experience. For some strange reason no one seems to want to try it after I tell them this story.

A note about the photo. As I said, this all happened back in the 1990s. We were not in the habit of taking pictures of our meals when we went out so we have no photos of the actual event. The picture of Badagaje Hoe I found on is the closest I have found to what we are served. Thanks to Kevin for allowing me to use it in this story.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Deer in the headlights

This deer dared me to hit it on the way to work this morning. I declined.


I remember the Space Shuttle Challenger

I remember the Space Shuttle Challenger. I watched her first liftoff on television and watched her final flight in person.

On January 28, 1986, I was a young engineer at a defense contractor in Palm Bay, Florida, about 30 miles south of Cape Canaveral. We would either go to the roof of the building or into the parking lot to watch whenever a Space Shuttle launch was scheduled. Since this was just before lunch time, several of us planned to watch from the parking lot and then go to a nearby fast food joint to eat. It was bitter cold for Florida that morning (in the 20s, well below the temperature for any previous shuttle launch -- but we didn't know that). We had one "newbie" with us, a new grad who had just started work the day before.

We checked our watches and when 11:38 rolled around we began to tell the newbie where to look for the shuttle over the tree line. A few seconds after liftoff Challenger was high enough that we could see her. We were telling the newbie to watch for the solid rocket booster (SRB) separation when the ball of fire and smoke erupted around the shuttle and the plumes of the two SRBs continued on, forming some sort of perverted "Y" in the sky.

We immediately rushed to a car and turned on a radio. The station that normally carried launch coverage was silent and then we heard the announcer, "Obviously a major malfunction." Some two or three minutes later we felt a rumble in the car. We didn't realize at first that it was the sound of Challenger exploding.

We were stunned. We all had worked on contracts associated in one way or the other with the space program and we felt this loss personally. I can't say what we did for the rest of the day but I remember our group leader had a little black and white television in his office. We all clustered around it to watch news coverage.

This was the last manned space launch I watched in person. A couple of months later NASA launched a Delta rocket to deploy a weather satellite. I went up to the Cape to watch this one. Problems after liftoff forced the flight safety officer to destruct the launch vehicle a minute or so after liftoff. That was the last unmanned launch I watched in person.

Today marks 30 years since the loss of the Challenger. In that time we have lost another shuttle, Columbia broke up on reentry after an otherwise successful 16 day mission in 2003. I had moved on to another job and another state by then but it still hit hard.