Lobster; Crabs, hard-shell, soft-shell
A lobster served whole is a sight to behold. But it may be intimidating to the novice. Properly presented, a whole or halved (always lengthwise) lobster, whether steamed, boiled, or grilled, will be brought to the table with a paper bib, a clam (or nut) cracker, and an extra bowl or plate for the discarded shells.
Once the bib is donned, the task at hand begins. And the only way to eat a lobster served in its shell is with the hands, assisted by the clam cracker and the shellfish and dinner forks (The shellfish fork is generally too small to properly eat the larger cuts of lobster, but it is used to extract and then eat the flesh from the intricate portions of the shell). Some species of lobsters have claws, which are generally pre-cracked when the lobster is presented to the table. While bracing the lobster in the plate with the left hand, the right hand is used to twist off the claws at the juncture where they connect to the main body of the fish. The separated claws are then further cracked open with the clam cracker, and the flesh is eaten with the shellfish fork. The cracked shells are placed onto the extra plate that has been provided for that purpose. If the lobster is halved, the meat in its tail will already be partially exposed and should be picked out, bite by bite, with the dinner fork, or lifted entirely out by using the left hand to brace the lobster in the plate while the dinner fork, held in the right hand, is used to carefully lift the full half-tail from its shell. The extracted tail is then cut into bite-sized portions and eaten with the dinner fork. The legs of a lobster also contain meat. They should be broken at the joints and pulled apart, sometimes simultaneously separating the meat from its shell such that one of the pulled-apart portions extracts the flesh from the other. When the meat remains intact despite the separation, the meat is best accessed by progressively biting the appendage from one end to the other, slowly pushing the flesh towards the exposed end with each successive bite. If a lobster contains roe, it should be eaten with the fish fork and savored. At the end of the course, the paper bib should be removed and folded outside-in. It is then placed onto the table to the upper left side of the plate containing the discarded bones. Immediately thereafter, a finger bowl containing hot water and lemon slices will be presented in order for the diner to refresh his hands in preparation for the following course. (See Finger Bowls above). A similar procedure is followed when eating hard-shelled crabs.
“Soft-shell crab” is the culinary term for certain species of crabs that are eaten in the molten state. Because a molten crab usually develops a new, hardened shell within 24 hours, the crabs are harvested just before they molt so that they can be eaten at the opportune time. When presented to the table, they will have been cleaned and cooked and are to be eaten in their entirety with a knife and fork.