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    the losing edge..., 2008-09-15 18:59:25 | Main | in case all this talk about the economy was confusing you..., 2008-09-16 14:41:31

    Being something of a provincial, landlocked backwoods hick from a mountaintop in the middle of Minnesota, it's happens to be the case that I've never before had lobster. Truth is stranger than fiction, I tell you. Reading this old David Foster Wallace column for Gourmet magazine has had the surprising effect - by the time he's quoting a certain T.M. Prudden - of making me somewhat less inclined to ever try it.

    Surprising to me, anyway. I always felt some sympathy for, for instance, fictional alien species or cannibal tribes that harvested humans for food. We all gotta eat. Diet is at least a better pretext for slaughter than, say, superfluous business contracts, abstract ideological interests, or undesirable banking practices. But the invertebrate nervous system carries some special challenges for those inclined to ethical butchery, something I like to think about just about never:

    Lobsters' nervous systems operate off not one but several ganglia, a.k.a. nerve bundles, which are sort of wired in series and distributed all along the lobster's underside, from stem to stern. And disabling only the frontal ganglion does not normally result in quick death or unconsciousness. Another alternative is to put the lobster in cold salt water and then very slowly bring it up to a full boil. Cooks who advocate this method are going mostly on the analogy to a frog, which can supposedly be kept from jumping out of a boiling pot by heating the water incrementally. In order to save a lot of research-summarizing, Iíll simply assure you that the analogy between frogs and lobsters turns out not to hold.

    And there's more unhappy news respecting suffering-criterion number one. Lobsters don't have much in the way of eyesight or hearing, but they do have an exquisite tactile sense, one facilitated by hundreds of thousands of tiny hairs that protrude through their carapace. "Thus," in the words of T.M. Pruddenís industry classic About Lobster, "it is that although encased in what seems a solid, impenetrable armor, the lobster can receive stimuli and impressions from without as readily as if it possessed a soft and delicate skin." And lobsters do have nociceptors,17 as well as invertebrate versions of the prostaglandins and major neurotransmitters via which our own brains register pain.

    The best stuff is relegated, however, to the footnotes. Attention span conservationists may want to just skip down.


:: posted by buermann @ 2008-09-16 12:13:16 CST | link





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