My response to Walter’s “Consider the Lobster”

“How does Wallace turn a rather ordinary experience (covering a food festival) into a captivating essay? Write 500 words relating to your experience reading the essay and post it to WordPress”

Wallace’s essay is very interesting because he does not JUST coverthe food festival.  He mentions details of the festival, but also includes interesting outside information we would not have expected to find in a review about this festival.

He also goes into extraordinary detail about lobster, which may seem a little boring and useless, but if you’re reading an entire essay based on a lobster festival, you might want to know a little background information on the main subject.  He definitely taught me a thing or two I never knew (or cared to know) about lobster, but it was very interesting and somehow fun to learn these things I never even thought about learning.

He also speaks very casually in his writing.  For example, when he writes, “And in the Main Eating Tent, you can get a “quarter” (industry shorthand for a 1‰-pound lobster), a 4-ounce cup of melted butter, a bag of chips, and a soft roll w/ butter-pat for around $12.00, which is only slightly more expensive than supper at McDonald’s.”  He breaks it down for us in a very informal, but informative way.

He doesn’t show the perks of this event, as you would expect him to. He shows all aspects of this event, especially the negative ones.  For example, he writes, “Be apprised, though, that the Main Eating Tent’s suppers come in Styrofoam trays, and the soft drinks are iceless and flat, and the coffee is convenience-store coffee in yet more Styrofoam, and the utensils are plastic (there are none of the special long skinny forks for pushing out the tail meat, though a few savvy diners bring their own). Nor do they give you near enough napkins, considering how messy lobster is to eat, especially when you’re squeezed onto benches alongside children of various ages and vastly different levels of fine-motor development—not to mention the people who’ve somehow smuggled in their own beer in enormous aisle-blocking coolers, or who all of a sudden produce their own plastic tablecloths and try to spread them over large portions of tables to try to reserve them (the tables) for their little groups. And so on.”

He goes so in depth about this topic that it almost makes you feel guilty for eating lobster or for enjoying the festival.  In the following paragraph, especially, it pushes you to agree with him in disagreeing with the ethics of this festival:

“A detail so obvious that most recipes don’t even bother to mention it is that each lobster is supposed to be alive when you put it in the kettle. This is part of lobster’s modern appeal: It’s the freshest food there is. There’s no decomposition between harvesting and eating. And not only do lobsters require no cleaning or dressing or plucking (though the mechanics of actually eating them are a different matter), but they’re relatively easy for vendors to keep alive. They come up alive in the traps, are placed in containers of seawater, and can, so long as the water’s aerated and the animals’ claws are pegged or banded to keep them from tearing one another up under the stresses of captivity,8 survive right up until they’re boiled. Most of us have been in supermarkets or restaurants that feature tanks of live lobster, from which you can pick out your supper while it watches you point. And part of the overall spectacle of the Maine Lobster Festival is that you can see actual lobstermen’s vessels docking at the wharves along the northeast grounds and unloading freshly caught product, which is transferred by hand or cart 100 yards to the great clear tanks stacked up around the Festival’s cooker—which is, as mentioned, billed as the World’s Largest Lobster Cooker and can process over 100 lobsters at a time for the Main Eating Tent.”

His essay does not focus on one specific aspect of the event, or simply brag about how great the event is.  He explores the event on a different level.  He makes us aware of every little thing in detail, with not just his first-hand experiences, but also with research. It is almost as if he kept a journal of his experience there, and included information that he researched after the event fascinated him into exploring these topics.  It makes it very interesting, because you can tell it’s all stuff that he is interested in knowing, learning, and teaching other people about. His pessimism towards the festival and his devotion to the topic make it very different from your typical boring essay.

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