On a warm Saturday in July, 5 years ago, we decided we would have lobster for dinner as a way to change things up. It was a welcomed treat for us along with Gram, with whom we were residing at the time. I can’t recall what prompted the idea, maybe a show on the Food Network, or likely it could have been a “we feel like eating Lobster” kinda thing. Regardless, one invitation went out to our friend Maya and the four of us set out upon this task. We used four large pots of water, as the lobsters we purchased were HUGE. We waited patiently for the water to come to a boil and one by one, Nick proceeded to drop each monster into its respective pot, with Maya and me waiting at the ready with the lids. The second lobster decided he wasn’t going down without a fight and lurched his claw out of the pot, which sent me screaming and running out of the kitchen while Nick and Maya burst into hysterics while covering the pot. Eventually all of the lobsters succumbed to their fate, we set up our feast on the table on my Grandmother’s porch, and went after these giant creatures. I remember one of them was so big, and its claw so large, that Nick eventually had to take a claw hammer (no pun intended) to it to crack it open. We named this unexpected mascot of the event, “Chernobyl claw.” As afternoon faded into evening and we were stuffed with lobster and other accompaniments, Lobsterfest was born.
The following spring brought thoughts of continuing Lobsterfest as a tradition. Nick and I had moved into our current home, and the story of last year’s festivities had spread to other members of the family. We now had a large yard, so we upped the guest list to 14 people and provided specific instructions: we provide the lobster, but the rest of the event was BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze) and BYOS (Bring Your Own Sides). In keeping with July in New Jersey, it was super-hot & humid, but sunny. We ordered the lobsters from our local supermarket, this time already steamed. Large tables were set up in the yard, and I decorated with all sorts of lobster-y accoutrements. We feasted on our delicious crustaceans among our guests, and as the day turned into evening, we cleaned up all the tables and set up beer pong, wrapping up after midnight.
Being old pros in our heads, we decided to invite a few more the next year and our guest list went up to 18. In the week leading up to it, people started to text me asking if we would reschedule if it rained. I didn’t know what they were talking about as I never thought to look at the weather. I said it would go on rain or shine…still never checking the weather, but instead just trying to convince myself that it would all work out. The day came, and I set up the outside – it was beautifully decorated if I do say so myself. It was humid, but it wasn’t raining. Then I started to notice the clouds…and then the raindrops came…and the skies opened up from there. As I tend to do when things don’t work out as planned, I freaked out. Our house is less than 1000 square feet, and we had 18 guests to feed lobster. Thankfully one guest showed up with a tent, which became our impromptu kitchen in the driveway (housing the huge pot and burner in which to cook the lobsters), and later as the beer pong hall when we moved it to the backyard. While the guests all enjoyed it, I was a ball of stress the entire time, and honestly don’t remember it that well.
Last year we decided to move Lobsterfest to September, figuring that at least the temperature would be on our side and hopefully the rain as well. We were right about the rain, but of course it was still hotter than Hades…like 90 degrees. We again expanded our guest list and invited over 20 people. This time friends came from other parts of the state and other parts of the country! That was a first and also the first year I really felt that we had this event down to a science.
Now in 2018 we are approaching the 5th Lobsterfest coming up this weekend. The guest list is about the same, with some friends traveling from out of state to share in the festivities. The weather looks good at this point, but now I’ll make sure I keep an eye on it as the week goes on. Our lobsters have been ordered, I’ve started organizing the decor. The menu is mostly set and I’ve started a shopping list. We are ready to go.
Nick and I love hosting this event. After Thanksgiving, it’s our absolute favorite. We both talk about how we can’t wait until we have an even bigger home, so that we can invite more of our friends and families. Now, there is one rule that makes this event a bit of a throwback to our youth. No parents allowed. It’s like a college party, though our palates are refined with the pizza having been replaced with lobster, but the partying style is the same, complete with beer pong and other games. Sometimes pizza does make an appearance as a late night snack, so maybe it’s more like a college party after all.
Through all the evolution of the event, the rambunctious fun, expansion of the guest list, and a party going late into the night, there is one constant. Gram is always present, along with Maya, Nick and me We are the original four. No matter Gram’s age, nor the distance Maya has to travel to join us, Lobsterfest wouldn’t be the same if one of us weren’t there. So this weekend, if you smell the sweet scent of steamed lobsters and hear the laughter of great friends and family late into the night, know it’s our traditional Lobsterfest. Know it’s a blast and we hope to one day to have the space to invite every single last one of “our people”. Know that you can make a tradition like this for yourself, because this is a tough list to crack! Know also that these memories last forever, and can start with a small gathering on a summer evening, simply by changing up the menu for a special treat among special people.