Spot the error

From my sister-in-law Virginia Transue on Facebook, a comment on this Peter de Sève New Yorker cover of 7/28/08, “Summer Getaway”:


Spot the error. Which Virginia’s grandson Owen (not yet 12) caught this summer, after the cover had been posted on the fridge for eight years (significant fact: the family has summered in Maine, way Down East, for many years).

Virginia’s comment:

The error shows us that somebody From Away painted this cover, probably one of those self-satisfied guests out there on the porch and not lending a hand in the kitchen.

The artist is certainly From Away, not from New England Lobsterland; the illustrator and animator de Sève is a New Yorker (born in 1958 in Queens, educated at Parsons, now living in Brooklyn) whose many New Yorker covers are almost all rooted, wryly or affectionately, in the city. On #1 and a 5/30/11 cover “Small Growers” (set in the Union Square Greenmarket) —


there’s a “Cover Story: Mushrooms and Lobsters” by Emily Kan of 5/20/11, with this comment about #1:

a trip to Block Island [RI} led to de Sève’s “Summer Getaway” … “Cooking lobsters reminded me of a scene in ‘Annie Hall,’ but it was more horrible and much less romantic. It just made me think about what lobsters think of, which nobody really wants to know. That cover was my way of redeeming myself, because in it the lobsters get away, which they didn’t that weekend.”

So to the glaring error in #1: the lobsters are all red, indicating that they have already been cooked — so how could they be escaping?

This is probably de Sève’s artistic license — portraying lobsters the way most people think of them (“His face was red as a lobster”) — rather than his ignorance; surely, he’d seen lobsters in their natural coloration (dark greenish-blue), before cooking (in which they turn red). But if you’re someone who regularly deals with lobsters in the kitchen, the scene in #1 is preposterous; you know too much.

de Sève has appeared only once before on this blog, in the 10/31/14 posting “Hipster chronicles” (another New Yorker cover), with notes on the artist.

Here’s one more cover, from 1/24/94, set in Central Park and featuring an enraged raccoon:


3 Responses to “Spot the error”

  1. Jerry Says:


    I believe that most lobsters are Reddish in color BEFORE cooking. All of the live ones in tanks @ restaurants that I have seen are dark reddish. The many stories where the off colored Blue/Green/Two Tone are “Saved” from a dinner plate sometimes have a picture of the off color one that is in a bunch of LIVE Red ones. Maybe they turn a brighter red when cooked (or maybe it is a West Coast Lobster thing, I mean they don’t have claws out here either) but a shade difference is a minor mistake.

    Am I wrong?

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      None of the lobsters I’ve dealt with (mostly from Maine) in cooking have looked reddish, and the photos of Maine lobsters you can find on the net don’t look reddish either.

      But it is true that there’s plenty of red pigment in the exoskeletons of Maine lobster. Cooking alters the other pigments (very dark greenish-blue) that normally mask the red, so that the lobsters appear to “turn red”, the way some leaves “turn red” in the fall, when the green pigment that normally masks the red decays. But neither the leaves nor the lobsters look red until the masking pigments disappear.

      All this is about Homarus americanus, the “American lobster” of the North Atlantic coast, which is what’s pictured in the magazine cover. I say nothing about other species of lobsters or creatures that are commonly called “lobsters”, though I note that so-called “rock lobsters” or “spiny lobsters” (only distantly related to so-called “true lobsters”) are notably reddish in hue.

      • Jerry Says:

        Thank you for clearing that up kind sir.

        Not being much of a Lobster fan myself I really was just going on what I have seen live out here on the West Coast and what I thought I had seen in photos (must have had on the Rose Tinted glasses).

        Keep up the good work, the site never fails to give me a chuckle and helps to get me through the day when it is less than stellar here at work. Well, this and the daily Zippy strip that I get in my email!

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