Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 9 - Are Lobsters Really That Hard to Cook?

Day 9.

I woke up this morning (read: afternoon) to the pleasant sound of one of my dorm mates pounding on my door, "Dude, you're on the Huffington Post!" Clearly, this asshole was just fucking with me. How in the world could my stupid little project get that kind of play on such a large stage? But then, as I logged onto my personal computing unit--there it was, staring me in the face: "7 Sites You Should be Wasting Time on Right Now--The Lawrence/Julie & Julia Project." Ladies, and gentlemen, I have arrived.

So a special thanks to whoever submitted my blog to the HuffPo people, and thanks to Arianna Huffington, who I'm sure personally goes through and approves every link on the site. And to you, my loyal readers, I thank you especially for being with me in these last 8 days. To those who have just discovered the blog, hop on the bandwagon--there's plenty of room for everyone. And as much as I enjoy sharing my soon-to-be-fleeting internet fame with all of you now, here's what you probably came for: your daily helping of Julie & Julia.


There is a scene about 40 minutes into Julie & Julia where Julie Powell has to cook a lobster recipe out of Julia Child's cookbook. For some reason, this is a huge fucking ordeal because lobsters are gross or something.

You can view the entire scene up on the youtubes here.

First of all, the lobster in the bag looks super, super fake. I'm guessing it was probably on loan from either the Jim Henson muppet factory or the Amanda Show.

Even more ridiculous is the extent to which Amy Adams freaks out the entire time, as she can't seem to bring herself to end the life of a giant bug-eyed crustacean. Why did Nora Ephron make the narrative choice to make Julie sympathize with an uglyass crayfish? I have no idea. Maybe because that makes her more likable or something? I mean, I suppose it does give an excuse for Not Mark Ruffalo's character to sing the lyrics "lobster killer" to the tune of "Psycho Killer" by the Talking Heads. That was sort of funny, I guess. Oh, did I mention that this movie is 2 hours long and this scene contributes nothing to progress the overall storyline? Because I should've mentioned that.

By the time she actually puts the lobsters in the pot of boiling water, she seems to have have overcome her fear--only to have the lid blow up in an incredibly cartoonish manner--which naturally reduces her into a pile of blubbering uselessness as she runs away, leaving a trail of urine behind her.

1. Would a pot lid really fly up into the air like that, even if there was a lot steam pressure underneath it? I'm no chef or anything, but I feel like it would just bubble over or just pop a little. I mean this thing had about 3 feet of air. Pretty ludicrous.
2. Are they trying to suggest that the lobsters hit the lid in their dying breaths? Because that would just be absurd. At least try to be somewhat believable, movie.

Naturally, Not Mark Ruffalo, the man in Julie Powell's life, comes to the rescue and uses all of his masculine strength to re-lid the pot and make everything better. Wow, this movie is surprisingly sexist.

During this scene, I could not help but think of another infamous movie couple/lobster fiasco. I am, of course speaking about the Woody Allen masterpiece, Annie Hall.

Again, you can view the infamous lobster scene is on the interwebs here. It's a great piece of moviemaking and helps establish the neuroticness of the relationship between Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. But the setup just seems strange to me--are there more instances of "couple attempts/fails to cook lobster" scenes in other films? Is this some kind of romantic comedy trope that I've missed out on or something? Put a man and a woman in a room with a lobster and boom, you have a good scene?

Also, are lobsters really that hard to cook in real life? A lot of questions for one post, I know. It just seems pretty straightforward to me. Obtain lobster from lobster store. Boil water. Put lobster in boiling water. Consume. I'll save that for a future blog post. I might have to get a girlfriend first, though.


Julie & Julia
Quote of the Day: "I'm growing in front of you!"


  1. I just like how she apparently got the lobster from the Lobsters Brand lobster store.

    You know, for all your lobster and lobster related needs.

  2. There is no way you're going to make it another 51 weeks. The movie is already starting to get on your nerves.

    If by some miracle you do, it would have to qualify as one of the most difficult and pointless achievements in human history.

  3. Hi, nice blog and congratulations. I'm friends with Tim Ghosh. Did you hear he came out last week? Also, kudos on sitting through another gripping Amy Adams movie. If I may make a recommendation, you should watch Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Ben Stiller works brilliantly alongside the Jonas Brothers, who make cameos in cherub form. Enjoy.

  4. Nah if he's gonna watch another Amy Adams movie, it should definitely be Psycho Beach Party. Lame ass "spoof" of 60s beach movies starring Xander from Buffy.

    Plus it's the closest you'll get (to my knowledge) to Amy Adams nudity.

  5. Your blog, is my new favourite blog.
    I think that while it may not be a tonne of "couple attempts/fails to cook lobster" rom com scenes, there are surely a huge number of "couple(or family) attempts/fails to cook something" scenes:
    Kramer Vs Kramer - french toast l
    It's Complicated - croissant
    All of Ratatouille
    I'm sure there's more.

  6. I LOVE the Amanda Show and I LOVE you for knowing it.

  7. I couldn't make it through once. I don't know how you're going to do it.

  8. The lobster scene is based on real life events as described in the book by Julie Powell. I guess she was real freaked out by lobsters and their squiggly eyes looking at her. I'm not sure if she ever got over being a lobster killer.

  9. Please go 365. I'll stay right here. It would've been way cooler in the movie if they butterflied the lobster, pan seared it, and baked it in its zhooshes and butter.

    Instead Nora goes for prissy pot and pout about steaming a silly lobster.

  10. Good post today.
    (1) People are squeamish about killing live things and then eating them. Even if they're crustaceans. Lobsters are one of the few animals (with eyes) that you buy live and kill at home. Plus, because they writhe around and look space-alien-like, people are more creeped out.
    (2) The best way to kill a lobster is with a sharp knife incision to the back of their head, pre-boiling water. My guess is that if you did throw them into boiling water without anything else, there would be a chance that they could attempt to escape, at least for a little while.
    (3) I thought of Annie Hall when I first saw this scene, too. But the motivation here (other than, isn't this a funny thing that happens) is to show a different sort of trial Julie had working through the cookbook. It's just not souffles falling--there's awkwardness and a bit of fear, too.

    P.S. For your quote of the day, I think you need to list the character saying the quote, for just a bit of context. Some quotes stand on their own, but I think you need to tell us who said others in order for us to appreciate them the best.

  11. You should read 'Consider the lobster' by David Foster Wallace

  12. Best blog post on the Interweb right now, little brother. Good luck with your fantastic, albeit futile endeavor. Your brilliant waste of time is truly our gain.

  13. Lawrence, good luck, you are hysterical and this is totally the best blog I've seen in a really really long time.

    but you do know you're kind of screwed now, right? with all this attention you're going to have to go through with it...and I'm very very sorry for you, but so so happy for me.

  14. First of all, Lawrence, you are hysterical! I am enjoying this blog and will stop back daily to read it.

    Secondly, I would react the same, if not worse, than Julie had while trying to make lobster! haha

  15. Lobsters are too delicious to live. The scene is really annoying. More annoying is whole "You are a Saint" issue that ensues from this point on.

  16. P.S. I found your blog through a post on jezebel:

  17. I'm concerned for your health.

    Don't watch it in a dark room, but you also don't want any glare or reflection on the screen. If you're watching on a tv, sitting about 15 feet away is advisable. The closer you are to the object you're focusing on, the more tired your eyes will become.

    i hope your parents who are paying for your overpriced education never know about this. But whatever, consider me a fan of your writing. Best of luck!

  18. i guess i just have to rewatch my dvd again. yo content is so grossing.

  19. Time/Life Cookbooks recommend immersing the crustacean in a simmering (not boiling) pot of water. This accomplishes two things: first, rather than reacting to its imminent demise, the lobster thinks he's just taking a hot tub. Bonus if you've added some white wine to the frappe, because then it IS just like taking a hot tub. Eventually mellow red boy will nod off to sleep ... permanently, and never know what hit him. Second, a relaxed crustacean is a tender crustacean (no tense flexing upon entering rapidly boiling water).

  20. I am loving this blog.

    Also, lobsters are exceedingly easy to cook when immersing them in liquid (either simmering or boiling them), but tough if you plan on steaming. If you're doing the latter, you should dispatch them ahead of time with a knife between the eyes, which is truly gross and lets loose a torrent of bluish liquid. Seriously. But it works.

  21. So, when do you start learning to cook yourself?

  22. Hmm, I've never seen this movie, and you're not making me want to (not that I did anyway- I hate both Amy Adams and cooking, although I'm neutral on Julia Childe). Regardless, I think you should do a cross-over blog posting with the guys from Mythbusters to determine if, in fact, incorrectly boiling a lobster does cause a minor explosion. I'd love to see how they ramp that up. It might be as dark as the time they built franken-neck to see if a plate glass window would cut someone's head off. Killing live animals for others' amusement in the gladiatorial arena of the internet... somewhat like what you are doing to your poor brain cells watching this silly movie 365 times in a row. I'm going to start a pool among my housemates for how long you last. I'm putting my money on two and half months.

  23. according to my husband, who works in the kitchen at a seafood restaurant, the best way to murder this particular arthropod is to balance it on its pointy little head for a couple of minutes, which causes it to pass out. You can then stab it violently with an icepick or throw it in the steamer or whatever without it struggling to escape. Also, do not succumb to the temptation to dispose of the remains by means of lobster bisque, your entire kitchen/apartment/whatever and all it contains will stink of lobster for months afterwards, and it's fucking disgusting anyway.

  24. If you get bored you should spend a day or two trying to look for movie editing mistakes (without looking them up online first). That seems like a good way to check a day off.

  25. definitely looking forward to the weeks and months ahead. Go Lawrence! Go watch Julie & Julia. And bless you for blogging about it.

  26. OK...I have a lobster story.

    We were having a friend over for dinner, and she had never had a lobster before, so I bought three of them at the, of course.

    I brought them home and boiled a big pot of water. Now, it's important to remember that boiling water cools as you put cold lobsters in. The first went in fine, and died instantly. The second was also easily dispatched, but at this point the water had apparently cooled a bit too much. When I put the third one in, he emitted a high pitched squeal and tried to crawl out of the pot!

    I'm sure the sight of me in the kitchen, beating a lobster on the head with a wooden spoon to get him back in the pot would have been hilarious to see...luckily, our dinner guest was being entertained in the living room and missed it, or I'm afraid she wouldn't have touched dinner! LOL

    I found your blog thru a post by Helen A. S. Popkin. You can bet I'll be reading every day!

  27. I must admit, this is quite interesting. Nunya sent me here! Good on ya! I'll be reading it :)

  28. Just found your blog today and I am LOLing all over the place. I haven't seen the movie. I wasn't planning on seeing it, but I might have to now just to know what you're talking about. Looks like you are having amazing success too because by the time I finished reading the nine entries, you got six new followers! Awesome!

  29. Thank you for your blog - it is helping me put off studying for my own finals and writing my papers . . . keep up the good work

  30. This is awesome haha i would never be able to do this! You should definitely try to do this lobster and other recipes if you need as posting ideas! this is great for my daily procrastination, so please, keep it up! :)

  31. "Put a man and a woman in a room with a lobster and boom, you have a good scene?"

    haha.Nice Lawrence, that is somewhat a "unique" plot of a movie scene. I'm wondrin what's in lobster, eh. Anyway, I love lobsters, maybe that's the reason I have a man in my life.haha. :)

    Cathy@online scrubs

  32. Shellfish actually jump out of the pot like that if they are put into boiling water. What Julie should've done was put the lobster in the pot when the water was still cold. For some reason if they are already in the pot as it gradually comes to a boil, they don't realize they're being cooked until it's too late. The same goes for cooking crabs.

  33. It's interesting that you call the film "sexist" for portraying her husband as the hero of the scene, because by not even considering the suffering of the lobster, you are living up to a stereotype of men as heartless toward others suffering. As Dorothy says in the film Tootsie, "Shame on you, you macho shithead" (you can find that clip on youtube). You not only don't consider the suffering of the lobster as noteworthy, you don't even understand another person being traumatized by taking part in that suffering. Actually, concern for the suffering of animals in food preparation goes back centuries when Greek philosophers went vegetarian as did Indian spiritualists for reasons of empathy and karma. These ideas have appeared and reappeared in various faces; I encountered them when I went to work at a health food store in 1976, and it led me into vegetarianism and yoga philosophy. As a respondent already noted above, people in affluent Western cultures rarely deal with killing their own dinner, so it's perfectly logical they would be sensitive to boiling a lobster alive or splitting it's head open with a knife. I think in the commentary track, Nora Ephron says that Amy Adams couldn't eat lobster for a year after doing this scene. Actually, my first experience with killing an animal was when I went fishing as a child while on vacation, and I was rather traumatized by hooking an animal by the mouth and dragging it to shore. When they gutted the fish for food, that was it for me, I didn't eat it. But I didn't have the knowledge to become a vegetarian then; that would have to wait until I was a young adult and was introduced to the writings of others that shared my revulsion. Just last week I watched the Julia Child lobster episode on youtube, and it was quite gruesome-- the most unappealing meat source I've ever seen. I'm surprised people even go to all that bother. Certainly in this film, Julie Powell is doing it to fulfill her challenge of cooking everything in the book. I'm glad that this event was included in the film, and consider it one of the most important scenes in the film because it brings in some laughs, horror, and some philosophy at the same time. At the moment (I'm writing in March of 2013), we are undergoing a huge expansion of vegan restaurants all over the USA, and this kind of philosophy is being given a lot of credibilty in medical circles for reversing the number one killer in the country-- heart disease. Even last week on Saturday Night Live, Justin Timberlake did a hilarious skit where he portrayed a street hawker for a new vegan restaurant-- a superb skit that runs in favor of compassion for animals. You can find it on youtube if you google "Justin Timberlake Veganville".

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