Consider the lob$ter

This is what a kilogram of M&Ms looks like (empty baby-food spice jar for scale)

This is what a kilogram of M&Ms looks like (empty baby-food spice jar for scale)

Canada has a metric system the way it has universal health care: it’s mostly theoretical and not everybody gets it. Really, we’re metric in air quotes.

Like most Canadians, I do my hot weather in Celsius and my frozen pizzas in Fahrenheit. I take out my litre of milk and measure out a cup. I travel 10 kilometres, but I ask you to step back a few inches. A few more. Just a couple more. Oops, now you’ve fallen off that 100-foot cliff. Or maybe it’s 30 metres. I’m not good with distance.

I know what a pound of hamburger looks like, but I couldn’t eyeball a kilogram of ground pork to save my bacon.

Meat by the pound (empty baby-food spice jar for holding down crumply paper)

Meat by the pound (empty baby-food spice jar for holding down crumply paper)

It isn’t just me. You only have to look at the grocery flyers. They announce their specials in big bold numbers: “LOBSTER $6.99/LB,” and then in barely visible print, like a legal obligation (which, this being Canada, it probably is): “$something-something/kg”. I can’t be more precise than that because I don’t read kilograms. No one does.

Thus my problem, lobster-wise.

We had planned to have lobster for Mother’s Day, but I didn’t reserve the day before as Deb had suggested, and then a shipment failed to arrive in Magog, causing a run on lobsters at the Stanstead store – or, more specifically, a scuttle on lobsters. Either way, no lobsters for Mother’s Day. My memory is vague but I believe I ate crow.

This past weekend, then, when Deb said, “Lobsters Sunday!” I was determined to get some. Does this mean I reserved beforehand? No, because it wasn’t Mother’s Day. Totally different situation.

But Deb and I did make sure to go to the store early, and if it so happened they were out, we knew from the flyer that there were lobsters for $6.99 a pound in Magog.

I should say at this point that lobsters are not a staple in our house. They are a rare treat, occurring maybe twice a season. Lobsters are to our diet what victories are to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The reason for this is because lobsters are bloody expensive. In fact, I decided a few years back that I like lobster, sure, but I only like it okay. I don’t like lobster enough to justify shelling out for one. And, yes, I just said “shelling out.”

So we planned to buy three, one each for Deb, daughter Katie and son James’s girlfriend. James and I would get a nice steak instead.

“Three lobsters, please,” I told the meat counter guy. “Around two pounds.”

There wasn’t a big price-per-pound sticker on the tank. I guessed they would be about the same price as advertised in Magog. There was only a small sticker on the tank, which read “$something-something/kg.” In fact, it said, “$23-something/kg.”

I was so determined to get those lobsters, it didn’t occur to me to convert the kilograms to pounds: divide by 2, add 60, then multiply by rhombus, spit over your left shoulder and pull out a calculator. But I wasn’t thinking. I was like a hunter, focused on my prey… sitting in a tank with rubber bands around their claws.

When the meat counter guy handed me my neat little box of lobsters, I looked at the price: $58 and change, nearly $20 per crustacean.

As the lobster being lowered in the pot of water said: “AAAAAAAAGGGHAHHAHHHHH!”

I was torn. On the one hand, I had redeemed myself for the Mother’s Day fiasco. On the other hand, $58 and change was its own kind of fiasco.

I met up with Deb in the store and sheepishly showed her the price. “Didn’t you ask how much they were a pound?” she wondered.

“We said we wanted lobster so I was getting the lobster,” I said. It’s called “sticking to the list.”

“We can take them back,” I added. We thought about it but decided, you know? Sometimes you just want lobster. It’s only money. It’s only overdraft.

“Did you pick some steaks for you and James?” Deb asked.

“Maybe pork chops. Pork chops are nice,” I said. “Or sausage. Spaghetti’s good.”

Besides, I’d kind of lost my appetite. I think I’m allergic to lobster prices.

In the end, I barbecued marinated beef skewers, as delicious as they were cheap, while Deb and Katie enjoyed 2.5 kilograms of lobsters. (The girlfriend couldn’t make it.) They assured me that they tasted just fine. They both certainly seemed to enjoy them. I know, because I made sure they ate every last gram.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
This entry was posted in Canada and/or Quebec, It Really Did Happen! and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

49 Responses to Consider the lob$ter

  1. I am nearly 60 years old and when I was a kid there was a big Commie Pinko Progressive Russian/British Anti-American Conspiracy to slowly wean the USA from “inches, feet, yards, etc” to the metric system. It failed miserably. (Have you seen the results of our Public School System lately?). Anyway…the metric system actually makes sense because it is of course based on measurements in multiples of “10”. Fine. I could live with that. On the other hand, if Americans were to change their currency, the Civilized World as we know it would be doomed. If we (‘Mercuns) can’t get something as simple as the metric system, how in God’s name could anyone expect us to calculate “loonie” and twonies”? Worse yet, “farthings, shilling and pence”!!??? Fugetaboot “yen” and “marks”.

    I do, however, have it on good authority, that a “kilo” is 2.2 pounds. My friend Juan from Colombia told me so. 😀

  2. Elyse says:

    When I moved from the US to Switzerland in the 1990s, I had to live with the constant conversion to the metric system from whatever it is I’ve always used. Some times it was comical — meals from the oven were a constant source of amusement and ash. But what really got me were the speed limit signs. YOu see, my car was American, with MPH on top of the speedometer and KPH below that. So when I saw signs for 100, I would drive 100 MPH. Of course, so did everybody else, including most people who didn’t have my excuse. And I never knew the temperature outside. Never.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I was 10 when Canada converted, so a lot of this stuff is pretty embedded now. Temperature and speed in particular, because we’re bombarded with weather reports and speed limits. But most people still bake in Fahrenheit and ovens are purchased with F as the default.
      And slow down, wouldya?

      • Elyse says:

        I did slow down (a bit). It must have been as I passed a herd of buffalo in a field next to the autoroute just outside of Geneva. I thought I was hallucinating and so I did slow down. But it was not a fantasy. There IS (or was) a herd of buffalo outside of Geneva Switzerland.

  3. Mrs. Corder told me when I was in 5th grade that by the time I graduated from high school the mighty USA would be on the metric system. Maybe she didn’t think I could ever graduate, but I decided it was just one more lie my teachers told me. I’m glad to see that Canada struggles to release itself from the grips of the illogical whatever system we use in the US. I listen to a Canadian radio station and I hear, “It will be 17 degrees in Victoria today…” I have to look at my phone to know if that is good or bad.

    I hope the lob$ter was good, and I hope your PBJ was just as tasty.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Yes, border living. Same thing. I hear “It was 60 degrees last night!” Mentally, I go, “OK, room temperature is about 70, so…”) But measuring fevers? Always Fahrenheit.

      • List of X says:

        Funny, I’m just the opposite. I’m fine with either Celsius or Fahrenheit weather-wise, but I still take my temperature in Celcius. Looking at a thermometer and seeing something like 101.5F or 95.1F or 103.2F, I get momentarily stumped, and then determine just how sick I am by the amount of time it takes me to convert the temperature to Celsius.

  4. I post recipes on my blog, so I have to show both measurements. My husband constantly gets an earful from me about why can’t the Americans just go metric to make my life simpler. And I’m the American! I expect the humorless guys in dark glasses and suits to show up shortly.

    And I refuse to do volume measurements like cups because they are the work of Satan.

  5. I don’t eat lobsters. I don’t eat things that look like the thing you’re eating. I love hamburgers and steaks because they look nothing at all like a cow. Lobsters look like lobsters. Or, worse, bugs. Or space aliens. How utterly unappetizing. I was on a blind date once and ordered soft shell crabs, not realizing what I was doing. You can imagine how I felt when the plate was set down in front of me.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I nearly mentioned this this a.m., but you should read “Debarking,” a short story by Lorrie Moore. I read it last night. Middle-aged divorcé dating on the eve of the Iraqi invasion, believe it or not. I dig Moore a lot. This is not her best (still very good), but your crab horror made me think of it. It’s online, if you can stomach reading a long story this way. I know I can’t. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2003/12/22/debarking

      • Will do. Thanks. With something like this, I usually copy/paste into Word and print it out. Moore is pretty friggin’ great. A national treasure.

        P.S. David Foster Wallace called. He wants his words back. Oh…wait…no he didn’t. He snuffed it.

        • rossmurray1 says:

          I read that piece in a Best American Essays collection a number of years ago but never registered who wrote it until much later. The essay, however, stuck with me, and I think about it almost every time I boil a lobster alive.

  6. List of X says:

    Lobster? Isn’t it just a big sea cockroach, if converted into the metric system?

  7. Ned's Blog says:

    Don’t they have the McLobster sandwich in your province like they do in Maine? I believe they’re only .50 cents per kg. And I’m pretty sure they come from Magog.

  8. franhunne4u says:

    First – no lobster here, all the pounds of inedible crustacea – a waste of money!
    And then – the metric system is opposed to the (English) imperial system – but the American might even be different … you never know with Americans. And – the English do not count in Farthings anymore … they must have changed somewhere in the … uhm – wait …the bronze coin minted between 1860 and 1956 – there were earlier versions, though … but it all ended even before I was born.

  9. Dina Honour says:

    You would think after nearly 7 years of living abroad I would be able to tell you how many grams are in 1/2 cup of butter. But nope. Gotta look it up. Every. Single. Time. Celsius just doesn’t sound hot or cold enough to me. 115! That sounds hot. 45? Meh. (Love the opening paragraph of this one.)

  10. we’ll take them

    those lobsters
    those 2 lobsters
    yes, those bastards there.
    we’ll take them

    so pink-red

    they say if you put them
    in warm water first
    they’ll sleep
    and when you boil them
    they won’t feel it

    how can we know?

    no matter the burning tanks outside
    Stalingrad
    no matter that Hitler was a
    vegetarian
    no matter that the house I was born in
    is now a brothel
    in Andernach
    no matter that my Uncle Heinrich
    aged 92 and living in that same town
    dislikes my novels and short stories.

    will take those 2
    bastards there

    flowers of the sea.

    Bukowski

  11. Interesting. Here I am in Alberta where pounds and inches are becoming a rarity. My stove is metric and I can’t remember the last time I bought a pound of something.

    And the poor old sea spiders. I love em, but they are stupid expensive. Kind of like the Leafs.

  12. pieterk515 says:

    Ah the metric system… Even politicians are talking about it now, I see on CNN. Just accept it already…

  13. ksbeth says:

    one man’s meter is another’s……

  14. Letizia says:

    I think I should be Canadian. Now that I’ve lived in the US for a few years, I think of the weather in C but cook in F, discuss yards but think in meters, weigh myself in kilos but weigh my dog in pounds. Is there room in Canada for this confused Euro?

  15. pinklightsabre says:

    I don’t understand, what is this other system you speak of? I should look it up. I just use the American system because it’s the biggest and the best, and the most accurate. You know, they even do their power differently in other countries. I have to use these converters. But I haven’t had enough coffee yet to toy with you here in your yard, Murray. Though I think the time is different and you are most likely in bed still, losing sleep over how you’ll fix the cars now that you’ve fixed yourself some lobster.

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