Shellfish and Shelf Life Aid from the Canadian Maritime Provinces

lobsterDid your grammar school teachers begin the school year by assigning an essay about your summer vacation?  Mine did, so I've never gotten out of the habit of summarizing my summer travels.  What's my excuse for posting this kind of piece on Shelf Life Advice?  Travel, in most cases, not only broadens the waistline but also one's knowledge of food and what can be done with it.  In July, my husband, daughter, and I took a bus tour of three of Canada's maritime provinces--Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.  We enjoyed tasting some new food combinations and found a Canadian-made product that can rejuvenate foods that have become too dry. Here's our story.


The maritime provinces, located just east of Maine and Massachusetts, are very watery places bordering on the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and many smaller bodies of water.  Seafood--especially lobster, crab, and mussels, are big there. When we arrived in early July, the summer lobster-fishing season had just ended, and lobster dinners were available anywhere and everywhere in the $16-$29 range, depending upon the size lobster a diner wanted to tackle.


Despite the wide variety of tools handed to us to mutilate our whole lobsters, we native Midwesterners were too inexperienced to do this task efficiently and without painful damage to our fingers. Therefore, we took the easy way out and permanently switched to ordering lobster rolls.  This menu item is, as the name suggests, lobster meat, neatly diced, moistened with mayonnaise, then inserted into a long roll.  At one restaurant on the Halifax waterfront, for about $18, we got an entire lobster's worth of meat in our sandwich. First, we watched an employee, with amazing speed (perhaps 2 minutes) and dexterity, remove every bit of edible material from one of our unfortunate lobsters. We devoured the meat of these delectable shellfish with much pleasure. During our 10 days in Canada, I consumed at least 6 lobster rolls.  At one lunch, my husband was served the most enormous kettle of mussels that he'd ever seen.  He polished off 30-40 of them with ease.  The Pilgrims considered shellfish food fit only for pigs.  We know better. 


The summer season for catching crabs was about to start when we, sadly, had to go home. Our next trip to the area will have to be in the middle or end of July. If you're also a shellfish lover, you'll find the maritime provinces a heavenly summer vacation spot.  Don't even think about going there in the winter.  We've been warned that it's brutal.


lobster chipsPrince Edward Island (PEI) folk not only catch lobsters; they also grow 27 types of potatoes.  What do they do with all these potatoes?  To begin with, the island has 2 potato chip factories.  Of course, restaurants serve them with lobster rolls, but lobsters and chips are even more closely connected in Original Atlantic Lobster Flavored Chips.  (See photo.)  Although I thought they were overpriced, I liked the taste, but, when I tried to share them with my bus mates, most politely declined the offer or didn't eagerly reach for a second one.  Believe it or not, when I returned home, I found a review of this specialty item on a site called, subtitled "serious about snacks."  It wasn't a kind review. First, it said that a cable channel film crew thought these chips were awful. Then, I read the site's "official" review: the site's own "chiptaster" thought they were nothing great.  Nobody, the site said, thought they tasted anything like lobster. 


What other uses have Prince Edward Islanders found for potatoes?  I had some in an entrée identified as potato pie.  This version was a huge, high slice of sauced scalloped potatoes interlaced with layers of bacon.  Very tasty. When I returned home, I googled the following: potato pie, Prince Edward Island, recipe. I was hoping to find the recipe.  Instead, I found a PEI recipe for potato and apple pie.  That sounds good, too.


My final food-related Canadian discovery was this Shelf Life Advice editor's dream: It's an inexpensive little item that extends the shelf life of many products by improving their texture. The Original Simply Soft is a red- clay-colored hard disc (made from natural clay minerals) that, according to the packaging, can soften "coconut, raisins, licorice, marshmallows, cakes, cookies, muffins, almost anything else."  What do you do with it?  You soak the disc for 15 minutes, then pat it dry and place it in a container with the food item you want to soften.  You leave it there until the food reaches the degree of softness desired. This small (slightly smaller than a coaster) disc can be reused.  Want one? You can order this $3.95 item by clicking here.  The big question is this: Will it work?  I asked one of the scientists on our Advisory Board, and she said yes.  It's not rocket science.  The moisture absorbed by the disc transfers to the food product, thereby softening it.  A damp towel and some heat can provide a similar function, but this may be neater and easier. 


Of course, the maritime provinces have more than food to offer.  There are many fascinating, beautiful places to see such as  an Acadian French-speaking fishing village, the18th century Fortress of Louisbourg (complete with "residents"), the Bay of Fundy,  the "home" of the fictional character Anne of Green Gables, and a terrific museum about the life and inventions of Alexander Graham Bell.  There's much to do there, too--for example, whale-watching, hiking, golf, and all sorts of water sports.  We can't expand upon these because we're a food site.  Travel sites and travel books can fill in the details.


Now it's your turn.  Tell us what your travels taught you about food.  We welcome your comments and tips.  And, unlike your 4th grade teacher, we won't give you a B- or any other grade on your composition skills.


Source(s): "East Point Potatoes, Prince Edward Island--Potato Recipes" (serious about snacks) "The Original Atlantic Lobster Flavoured Chips" "How to Soften Hard Bread" (whimsical goodies that'll brighten your day) "Simply Soft Disc"


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