"Most city folks don't know how to eat lobster," the West Ocean City watermen remark. So to disabuse them of that notion in the future, here are some tips on how to accomplish that task properly.

For the novice lobster eater, start with cold cracked lobster. Served properly, it is cooked, chilled and split lengthwise, presented on a platter; often on a bed of lettuce or parsley, both of which serve as a nice contrast to the brick-red shell. One can readily identify the tail meat and, forward of that the two claws -- a heavy one called the crusher and the other one somewhat more delicate and with finer teeth, the holder. Both are filled with delicious meat, and both should be served cracked. With a small fork, the claw and shell meat can easily be flipped out; the knuckle and joint meat adjoining the claws can also be delicately teased out. Eat this delicious cold meat with lemon juice or a lightly curried mayonnaise sauce.

Now for some tips on hidden goodies. As you study the lobster's body, note that there may be a reddish firm lump of meat sitting up above the leg joints attached to the body. This is the roe or coral; it's delicious, very nutritious and tastes somewhat like caviar, a bit tangier and a touch stronger than the lobster meat itself. There is also a greenish glob just under the roe. This is called "mustard" or "tomalley," which is the liver, and quite tasty. As time goes on, the lobster aficionado will come to love its flavor. Any other lumps and membranes in this area may be discarded.

Now to the body of the lobster itself -- the area just below the roe. The lobster is built somewhat like its first cousin, the crab: the same waxy opalescent septa separating tasty chunks of pinkish white meat. If one follows the leg up to the body, the view will lead to the chamber containing the meat. Select a fairly sharp-pointed tool -- a kitchen paring knife is excellent, or an oyster shucker's knife has a rounded sharp point and a heavy handle for cracking any reluctant claws. Slip the knife point against one of the septa, then slide it around the borders of this septa and when you reach the starting point flip the tip of the knife up. Out comes your reward; and then on to the next. With any luck at all, you should be able to get about half a dozen unexpectedly large chunks of meat.

The same techniques apply for picking hot cooked lobster as for cold lobster except that it's slightly trickier. The meat and the shell may be quite hot, and furthermore the melted butter makes it somewhat slippery. Thus handling can be best described as treacherous. The diner might feel urged, therefore, to eat the tail and the claw meat and the hell with the rest of it. You can quickly appreciate the opportunities for a skilled lobster picker to move in quickly for extra helpings. (This in the guise of helping your dinner partners pick their lobster meat.)

Some lobster trivia while you pick:

Dinner-size lobsters, weighing 1 1/2 pounds, are about six or seven years old.

Giant-size lobsters, weighing from 20 to 25 pounds, are about 80 years old.

Unlike meat, lobster is relatively low in calories. A 3 1/2-ounce serving of beef contains about 300 calories. A comparable serving of lobster totals about 95 calories.