Cooking with Coco

One of my earliest food memories is of eating fresh lobster at my home in Charlotte and also in West Chop on Martha’s Vineyard. I can still remember being a little bit scared of lobsters, with their weird-looking eyes and big claws, but after eating lobster for the first time, it was kind of life changing. It’s so delicious, I can still hear myself say. Not only did the lobster meat taste good, especially dipped in warm butter, but the memories of the times when I had lobster with my family stick with me.

I think of the times when we went to John’s Fish Market in Vineyard Haven to pick up the freshest lobsters. I remember eating with all of my family: cousins, aunts, uncles, parents and siblings, at Homeport in Chilmark on the Vineyard. 

Eating lobster is messy, but that is what makes it so much fun. Wearing the lobster bib, getting butter everywhere, and cracking the lobster open are the best parts. 

When I look back now I can see that being open to eating something that at first seemed so weird made me more comfortable eating other things I otherwise might not, like oysters and mussels, and it made me open to the great adventure of food. I have never really been a chicken fingers and French fries kid. I hate it when the server asks if I need a kid’s menu when I go to a restaurant. 

When we are fortunate to travel, I like to try the foods of the places we visit. Several years ago we went to Sweden, and I ate reindeer meatballs there. They were amazing! When we go out west to see my brothers I eat the bison burger with Nate in Montana, and I eat a lot of citrus when we’re in California. Once,when I was in the Caribbean we caught fish and ate them for dinner. That’s a great feeling; getting your own food with your own hands.

There was a time in history when lobster was considered food for the poor, the servants and lower members of society. Lobster was served in prisons and was used as fertilizer until well into the 20th century. In recent times, the price of lobster (as high as $15 a pound this spring) has made it more of a special treat and certainly out of most people’s food budget range.

It’s not something I get to have very often, and I wouldn’t want to because lobster is for special times with my family. I’m grateful that I gave it a try when I was younger because it really was my early experience with that weird creature, the lobster that started me down the road to being an open-minded eater and eventually to becoming a chef and to competing on Chopped, Jr., a competitive cooking show.