When we visited Portugal in 1980, we toured the Algarve's south coast and one day at noon when we were looking for a place to eat, we spied a shabby little hut on the beach with tables and a grassy lane leading down to it. Sure enough it was restaurant with a chalkboard menu in Portuguese and another couple as customers. They were tackling a huge spiny langouste with apparent gusto so when the proprietor came for our order, we just pointed to them indicating we’d have the same.
It was the first time I had ever been up close to, much less tried to eat the intimidating spiny creature that came on a big platter, and it was a bit of a feat figuring out how to tackle it. It was soon obvious however, that it was like the clawed lobster we were used to in that the tail contained most of the meat so we consumed it first. It was a bit tough and not quite as flavorful as expected, but the real adventure was yet to come.
Having grown up on the east coast of Canada, we were experts at finding the tender, delicious bits of meat to be found in a lobster’s body at the base of its legs and, sure enough, exploring the body of the spiny beast was amply rewarding! There were lots of large tasty morsels of meat to be found and especially at the bottom of the huge antennae too. I was tempted, but didn’t eat the tomalley, the loose green delicious paste in the body that was the creature’s liver because, like any liver, it stores all the body toxins.
As we were engrossed in exploring our feast, we were curious to notice that the man at the other table had left his companion and driven off leaving her behind. The reason became clear when we were presented with the bill and found out our lunch had cost us almost $100US [worth almost 3 times that much now] – an unexpectedly large amount of money for lunch in such a setting! - and I too had to stay behind as my husband drove off to the nearest bank.
In recalling this memory, I realized that I still know very little about spiny lobsters so have looked them up to find that there are two main types of lobster in the world that we commonly
eat, clawed lobsters and Spiny lobsters and that they are biologically only distant cousins. Clawed lobsters thrive in cold, shallow waters as far north as Newfoundland and northern Europe and as far south as southern parts of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. They differ from one another mainly in the size of their claws with the north American coast lobster [shown on the right] prized for its delicious large claws. Interesting that Spiny lobsters are typically found in warm waters and the big one from the Mediterranean that we had eaten was an especially rare treat there.
Looking back now, it still was worth it! Rie