Monday, September 28

The Venn Diagram: The Cruise Missile Of Comedy's Defensive Arsenal.

A. Meat and Bones

1. Sign on Kroger fish counter, Friday, September 25: "Monkfish (Poor Man's Lobster): $10.99/lb."

2. Contemporaneous price of actual live Maine (or Rich Man's) Lobster: $17.99/lb.

2a. As has been pointed out, this yields far less than 1# lobster meat.

2b. As has not been pointed out, live lobster includes the liver, technically tomalley, unlike the monkfish, where it has been stripped and sold by commercial fishermen the way copper tubing from your air conditioner is stripped and sold to junkyards further inland. The live lobster may also contain roe, though in my experience gravid females rarely make it to Corn Belt supermarkets. Properly managed, the cooking liquid--or the shells and membrane, if the lobster is to be split first--become lobster stock. Thus the frugal man, Poor or no, can turn his purchase into two courses, at least, if not two meals.

3. Contemporaneous price of grill-ready ribeye steaks (aka, "the Reason God Invented the Cow"): $7.99/lb.

4. Contemporaneous price of farm-raised salmon: $9.99/lb.

5. Contemporaneous price of farm-raised tilapia: $4.99/lb.

6. I believe we have seen the dilemma of the Poor Man i' the adage.

7. There was, in addition, an intended sense of a corporate game of telephone, some aspects of which we will discuss below, which at no point in the line did any Kroger employee step up to remark upon.

B. Choice of Sides

1. There was, in the back of my mind, but certainly not intended as implicit in the post, the sense of the slack naming conventions, bordering on the criminal, and surpassing what qualifies as criminal should you or I engage in it, permitted the marketers of foodstuffs in the US of A.

1a. Where, for example, you can inject carbon dioxide into a steel vat of the indifferently-fermented pulp of substandard Thompson's Seedless grapes and call the result "Champagne" in as little as 48 hours, including bottling and shipping time.

1b. I'm not sure if laws "governing" trade even assure me the fish in question was what is commonly known as monkfish, or goosefish.

1c. I am, however, reasonably certain that "Poor Man's Lobster" is not a recognized cognomen for the species, except, perhaps, in some local area where it is a common trash fish, i.e., commonly netted but too ugly for commercial trade. Which suggests that either someone hailing from such a region rose to a position of prominence in the Kroger corporate marketing hierarchy and passed the name along innocently, or it was added in an attempt to improve the cachet of a trash fish they're attempting to peddle for eleven bucks a pound, and no one noticed the irony.

1d. My money's on the latter. In fact, the name almost certainly originated with the broker, who knew better.

2. I suggest that the term "Poor Man's Lobster" is, in common parlance, the name of a dish, or a cluster of dishes, designed to ape the flavor and texture of boiled Maine lobster in butter substituting inexpensive fish for expensive crustacean. Since the five seconds I put into Googling this back me up, I consider the matter settled.

3. Continuing in the recipe vein, the term was first brought to my attention thirty-years ago, on an ill-fated fishing trip on Lake Erie my father-in-law forced the rest of us into. The ship's captain's inamorata passed out loose-leaf copies of recipes designed to help you dispose of all the walleye and yellow perch you were sure to be sick of within three days of returning home, and "Poor Man's Lobster" was the one she singled out. I did not, however, get the chance to try it for myself, since by the time I had fully recovered from a heretofore unknown susceptibility to mal de mer, engendered by a couple hours spent on a small boat in the middle of a large lake which is no more than thirty feet deep, meaning that both the boat and I were heaving continually all afternoon, and which I foolishly braved a second time in the name of in-law bonhomie, accompanied by a marginally effective scopolamine patch, all the fish had spoiled.

4. As such we would note the typical inattention to concern over insult to person or intellect by the typical person with something to sell you and a conviction that such trumps all other concerns, which, as so often, borders on religious conviction in this country. It is one thing when some in-group, or collection of working persons, calls something "Poor Man's" this, that, or t'other; it is quite another when that is plucked up and plopped down half a continent away and used to move Product. The fisherman, processor, or charter operator who eats Poor Man's Lobster may, in fact, be wealthy, but is consuming what comes to him as surplus. The Hoosier who is a ninety-mile drive through Waving Fields of Soy from the tip of the nearest Great Lake who orders the dish in a restaurant may understand why it is so named. The supermarket shopper who sees it on the other side of the glass, applied to a species, not a pre-cooked meal, is the potential victim of an intended duping, and ought to be insulted by it, even if the brigand responsible is no closer than the home office in Cincinnati.

5. For that matter, there is no such thing as fresh fish in Indiana, unless you are desperate enough to pull a carp out of the Water Co. Canal, or suicidal enough to pull a dead carp out of the White River, aka "Indianapolis' Open Sewer Until Such Time As Pledging To Collect Justifiable Taxes And Spend The Revenues On Needed Infrastructure Benefitting The Entire Populace Becomes Anything Other Than A Guarantee Of Swift And Massive Electoral Defeat".

6. Rather ironically, a hundred years ago lobster was considered trash, and the only people who ate it were those who found themselves with no other means of disposal.


map106 said...

I knew it would be a mistake to comment, but did anyway. Sorry.

heydave said...

a hundred years ago lobster was considered trash...

Wow, I'm not sure I would go that far myself, but at least that makes me feel ahead of the times. Or behind them. Same thing; temporally unstable.

Sator Arepo said...

"The fisherman, processor, or charter operator who eats Poor Man's Lobster may, in fact, be wealthy, but is consuming what comes to him as surplus"

And a surplus, as we know (thanks to Derrida), implies a lack. Whether in this case it is a lack of taste, judgment, common sense, or (an)other attribute(s) is Socrates' problem.

guitarist manqué said...

* in Maine and New Hampshire it is illegal to harvest egg bearing lobsters.

This brings us to naming conventions, which, as you rightly deduce are a can of worms. "Maine"lobster refers to the species and differentiates the bugs from spiny lobster, the tropical, inferior variety. Maine lobster can be from Massachusetts, New Hampshire or even friggin' Canada. This is of particular interest to those who have heard the stories of lobster divers in Massachusetts Bay (it is illegal to dive for lobsters in Maine) that do very well near the outflow of the Boston sewage system near Quincy. Grisly.

Random DNA tests of restaurant fish (in Florida) have shown red snapper to have a 45% chance of being red snapper . As the number of commercially viable species plummets the industry has had some lobbying successes in naming. Spiny dogfish is a good example. Much used in fish & chips in England but not often seen at Kroger's it is now legal to call spiny dogfish "cape shark" in commerce.

I've heard monkfish called poor man's lobster for thirty years (usually by some one that had some to sell, natch)and always in the Northeast where it is a not uncommon species but have never heard the term applied to other fish. Once having shipped the stuff to a place that hasn't seen salt water for 65 million years they figured it needed some cachet to bring in the price necessary to cover shipping it there. I consider the matter settled w/o any googling.

guitarist manqué said...

When I was very young there was a recipe on the back of the Ritz cracker box for "Mock Apple Pie" and I just couldn't understand it. I pestered my Mom. Why would people make such a thing? Because they couldn't afford apples? We lived in apple country and it seemed to me that pastry crust cost lots more than apples, if you could afford to make pie couldn't you get some apples somehow? If you were going to the trouble of making a two crust real pie why would you ever fill it with Ritz crackers soaked in melted margarine and lemon juice? They must have had that on their box since the Depression was the only thing I could think of.

As DHR says about Poor Man's Lobster, it's all about moving product. If they could sell a few more boxes of crackers it wouldn't matter if Mock Apple Pie bore any resemblance to real food, whether it was a savings of time, money or sanity, it would have achieved its only goal, moving product. Is it possible anybody anywhere ever actually cooked Mock Apple Pie, let alone enjoyed it with some mock ice cream or mock cheddar cheese food product? Is there a place where they call Ritz crackers mock apples? America is a mystery and reading it literally can be, as Derrida would agree, difficult.

heydave said...

Watch that mocking tone of voice...

map106 said...

Hey, I made a Mock Apple Pie when I was young. And anyone who knows anything about anything, knows that you serve it with Ice Milk, or for the cheese lovers, Velveeta.

Anonymous said...

OK, you guys, simmer down. You're coming dangerously close to stealing DHR's rice bowl.

Anonymous said...

Moving product.

That's the crux of the biscuit, Dog.

Thanks again.


mac said...

You know the monk fish looks a bit like the Oyster toadfish. Known to the inbred locals that haunt the back bays of the outer banks as the Oyster Crakkin' Mud Toad. I remember trying to touch one in about 2 feet of water as a young boy. I can still hear its teeth clacking together.

sharon said...

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