Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Secret to a Great Lobster Dip -Location, Location, Location

Vero Beach, FL

A great lobster dip, one which will wow everyone you servie it to, requires a very few special ingredients but the result is greatly enhanced if you choose the proper location for its preparation.

Here's how we go about it on Meredith:


A bunch of lobster tails preferably caught that afternoon or at least frozen within minutes of being caught
A tiny amount of Mayonaisse
A couple of tablespoonsful of good quality horseradish.  Add to taste
Lemon Juice to taste.

1. cook up a few lobster tails,  I find it makes a better dip if the lobster is cooked slightly longer that if you were serving the tails as an entree  When cooked to a good set set them aside to cool.
2. When the lobster is cool enough to work, remove the tail shell and the big vein that runs the entire length of the tail.  Shred the meat with a fork.
3. add enough mayo to moisten the lobster.  Do not overdo the mayo.
4. add horseradish until the mixture tastes as you think it should
5. add lemon juice, again, a few drops at a a time until the taste is right.

Preparing the lobster

Lobster is very easy to catch in Bahamas and Cuba so before you begin move yourself onto your boat in either of these countries.  When the light is right go snorkeling and come back with the day's lobster.  Usually 4 lobsters is enough, 6 is better.

Boil water.  Take your catch of lobster, one at a time, grab the thorax of the lobster in one hand and the tail in another.  Twist.  Throw the thorax back into the water.   Throw the tails into the boiling water and cook until the shells turn red.  They do.

Final Comment 

There is only one secret to fabulous lobster dip - lots of lobster.  None of the recipes you will find at home work because they are written on the assumption you do not have much lobster at hand.  Lobster is dear back home.

Down here lobster is cheap, as in free.  All it takes is an afternoon of swimming, spear in hand.  You combine it with a snorkeling expedition.

If ripping the tail from the thorax of the living lobster gives you the willies you can consider that at least the lobster is dead when it hits the boiling water, which would be its fate otherwise.  Or you can go to the store and buy prepared "lobster like substance" and congratulate yourself on being responsible.

Your dip will be flat and your guests unresponsive.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cuba - The Bad Stuff

2011 03 26
Vero Beach, FL

Everyone knows we love Cuba.  The people, the country, the fresh markets, the cigars, the rum, the unbelievably low prices.

So rather than beat that drum let us tell you first about the things that did not go as well as had hoped they might:

The Damning Superiority of the Ruling Bureaucrats

Not intending to visit Cuba we had not brought any Canadian currency.  Fortunately we were in possession of some Euros which had been lying around the boat depreciating with every new upheaval in the EU.  To convert the Euros to Convertible Cuban Pesos it was necessary to taxi from Puerta Vita, where we cleared into the country, to Guardalavaca where the bank was.  This required a taxi ride.

Enroute our driver stopped, with our permission, to buy some plantains from a cart bringing a big load of such things from field to market.  He was denied.  

Visibly upset he climbed back into our taxi.  Continuing our drive he explained that the produce was  not for sale.  A moment's quiet wait on our part and he could hold back no longer.  The plantains were not for sale to ordinary Cubans it turned out.  They were for government officials and too good for the likes of him.   It was an uncomfortable drive to the bank.

After changing money we took the driver to the local fresh market and allowed him to direct us from stall to stall, ensuring we got "good deals" from all the vendors.  His mood was visibly improved as he managed our purchases and his reputation amongst the vendors who would, we assumed, ensure he received due compensation for his part in their sales.

It was tough to bargain hard when tomatoes were selling for 12 cents a kilo and onions for a buck for a two foot braid of the largest sweetest onions we had seen since our last visit to this garden paradise.

Economics In a Planned Economy
Connie was having our laundry done by hand for $3 a bag, $2 if she provided the detergent.  Everything came back spot free and ironed, even the underwear.  It sounds as if we were taking advantage but some care is needed in dealing with a developing economy.

In a country where the epidemiolist is paid $25 a month, a princely sum,  imagine the lure of being a laundress at $3 a bag?  The mechanic at the marina was a mechanical engineer but he made more money in tips from the marina guests in a week than he ever made in six months practicing his profession.

No Communications

It is not permitted for Cubans to have unsupervised contact with the outside world.  The phone system will not call outside the country.  Internet is unbelievably expensive and slow, not entirely the fault of the Cuban government, as the logical service providers are American and so not permitted to provide service to this lovely country.

All Hand Held Radios and GPS Devices Travel in Bond Only

This was true last year as well.  Arriving at Vita our customs man, Jose Vila Danger, inventoried all hand held radios, cell phones and GPSs and then sealed them in a drawer marked with official customs tape.  They were not released until we departed Hemingway Marina.

We believe this is to prevent our selling such devices to the local population.  But in a country with this much government nothing has to make sense - it is so because some guy in a white shirt says so.  

Flares Confiscated and Proof of Health Insurance Now Required At Hemingway Marina

Flares Confiscated

A private regulation relating to Hemingway Marina only requires that all flares be confiscated by the harbour master on a ship's entering the marina.  These are inventoried, painstakingly, and returned on departure.

Proof of Health Insurance Needed at Hemingway Only

On entering Hemingway Marina this year we had to provide proof of health insurance.  Luckily we had our OHIP cards handy or goodness knows what we would have done.  This is hardly a disaster but for Canadians visiting Hemingway make sure you have something on hand. 

Bus Downtown Has Been Cancelled

Last year mariners at Hemingway could ride a handy bus which carried us from the marina to the Plaza de la Revolucion in downtown Havana, a distance of 12 to 15 miles.  This year the bus was cancelled which left you depending on a $12 cab ride ($24) return if you wanted to visit the city.  

This was disappointing but not being unresourceful the Budget Committee and I snuck into the adjoining hotel and onto the bus that that resort provides, free of charge, to its guests.  Same bus but free and it delivers you to a better destination in the city.  We tipped the driver generously.

I cannot honestly think of another thing to complain about.

Back in the US, Eh?

2011 03 24
Vero Beach, Florida

The Cuban invasion is at hand.  Departing Havana at about 11 am on Tuesday Meredith arrived stateside and established a beachhead at Vero Beach Florida on Thursday afternoon about 2 pm.  

Our fifty hours at sea purchased 350 miles straight line travel.  Oh the joy of riding the Gulf Stream.  At times our little boat was recording "velocity made good" numbers well in excess of 10 knots.  

We have retaken North America and it is ours.  Our first afternoon back we accomplished  the obligatory rites attendant on such an occasion: we showered in endless HOT water and enjoyed some properly cooked burgers with potato on the side.

Our second day home found us in our first grocery store since January 17.

Now we are on the internet - at a blazing rate of speed and with no service interruptions. 

Today we are going to walk around a mall and then go for drinks on some friends' boat.

Nice to be home.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Corrections

2011 03 05 or 06 or something like that
Puerta Vita Cuba

No apologies to Jonathon Frantzen, that silly author of trivial if disturbing sexual pecadillos and typically twisted childhood.  The man is a hack.  All I use is his title.

Meredith set off from Clarencetown Long Island a few days ago. I am not sure when.  Does it matter?

The forecast suggested it was a good time to head south and east and this time the forecast was right.  However the forecast was 12 hours premature.  The sailing was not rough even in the first 12 hours I just want it recorded that the forecast, only 15 minutes old, was wrong. 

Thirty hours later we were motor sailing in light winds along the south shores of Mayaguana, only 20 miles off the island of Provo, Turks and Caicos. 

That was as close as we got. 

The forecast, always wrong but the only basis for trip planning, suggested strongly we could not make our destination of Puerto Rico in good order and still return to North America to complete business at the end of April.

So, thirty hours out we turned right and headed for Cuba.

Thirty Six Hours later, about 5:30 pm we sailed into Puerto Vita, dropped the hook and waited for the quarantine inspection the next morning.  We had sailed the final 24 hours in a fresh breeze off the starboard quarter and were invigorated.

Now we are among friends, Tina the marina manager, Jose Vila Danger the Customs man, Peter the Dutch humanist who has now married a local and is seeking Cuban residency.

This is a good place and we are happy to be here.  We are very glad we dropped PR and returned to comfortable Cuba. 

Not much internet, no phone but everything else is just fine.