New England know-how guarantees a terrific lobster bake.

By Sandra Oliver
April 08, 2004
 Tim Peters

Whiffs of smoke from smoldering logs and pungent steam from sizzling rockweed drift across the beach. Underneath a canvas tarp, corn, mussels, clams, and lobsters bask away. This is hurry-up-and-wait time, when our friends swim, paddle a kayak, wander the beach, or sip cold beer and wine as they sit on nearby rocks and listen to lapping waves.

For many of us, it's been a day of heavy lifting: carrying ice chests, collecting rocks, finding driftwood to burn and seaweed to steam. My husband, Jamie MacMillan―our "bakemaster"―shovels a bit of sandy gravel onto the edge of the tarp where he sees some steam escaping. Too much air under there can cause the seaweed to catch fire from the hot rocks.

When Jamie says it's time to break into our bake, I call everyone to watch and help if they want. Jamie pulls back the tarp, and we gently lift steaming seaweed away with a pitchfork―looking for the telltale brilliant red of cooked lobsters. Wide-eyed onlookers say, "Ohhh, wow, look at that," when the first one is uncovered. Wearing gloves, we work quickly, pulling out the ruby-red crustaceans and laying them on a tray, then scooping up the mussels and clams. We dig deeper for the corn, still in husks and scorching hot. We work quickly because even in summer along the Maine coast, the air off the water can be cool, and this fare tastes best when it's piping hot.

Next to our steaming seafood, which some of us plan to dip into melted butter, we heap the traditional sides onto our plates. I've brought along Marinated Potato Salad with Summer Vegetables, which I loaded up with fresh green beans, asparagus, and cucumbers from my garden. Creamy Coleslaw, with a bit of biting vinegar and mustard, nicely foils the richness of the shellfish. We devour it all with abandon.

As the afternoon unwinds, we perch on nearby rocks for another sweet tribute to Maine and its indigenous fare―Blueberry Crisp. After dessert, we rebuild the fire and relax, watching the sun set and the moon rise. The cold incoming tide hisses as it rolls over the smoldering rocks, lulling us toward a perfect day's end.