Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 06.09.15
Stanstead, Quebec


Weighing in on lobsters

STANSTEAD, QUEBEC | 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.

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.