Just Beneath the Surface – Island Life and Lobster Pizza

February 22, 2017 | By: Merritt Carey

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It used to be, no matter where you lived, you knew someone who had come up on the farm; we were, essentially, a nation made up of farmers and fishermen. In Maine, that still holds true; we are a state of fishermen. Scratch the surface of virtually anyone who has grown up here, and you’ll likely find a connection to fishing. So it is with Dwight Stanley, an endodontist (I had to ask – root canal specialist) who lives in Cumberland. I had met Dwight only once, but I knew his mother, who was married to one of the fishermen who fished for the Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op, and had heard he was an excellent cook.

Nothing about his home belied his deep connection to fishing, but it didn’t take long before our conversation revealed what lay just beneath the surface: he hailed from a long line of island fishermen; his father was a 5th generation fisherman living on Monhegan Island; and his great grandfather, so the family lore went, had Maine’s first lobstering license, license number 1. Dwight had spent his early childhood on Monhegan, which lies about 12 nautical miles off the coast. “Growing up on the island was great,” Dwight reminisced, “you had the whole place to yourself. As a kid I was given a skiff and I spent hours in it after school every day.” The school was a combined k-8 school, the proverbial one room schoolhouse.


Monhegan Island boasts a year round population of about 75 people, in the winter the ferry runs 3 times per week. The Monhegan Island fishery is what’s known as a limited entry fishery – that is only island residents can fish its territory, which runs approximately 2.5-3 miles around the island.  Conservation measures for the fishery, negotiated between Monhegan’s fishermen and the Department of Marine Resources, limit fishing to winter months only and a 400 trap limit (compared with 800 outside the conservation zone). Today there are just 8 fishermen on the island, Dwight’s father among them. “The Island is different now, the population has decreased and the other fisheries – ground fishing, herring seining – which were big in the summer don’t exist for islanders anymore.” Monhegan, however, has always attracted artists and its summer population and economy has become more robust over the years; recently a brewery opened on the island.


I complimented Dwight on a built-in cabinet in his kitchen. “Oh I built that a few years ago, I ran the wiring for it, and last summer I added that deck. Growing up on an island, you learn how to do just about everything,” Dwight noted. “I often stayed with my grandparents in the summer and one thing about an island, you have to cook every meal, there’s no fast food. Both my grandparents liked to cook and we ate a ton of seafood, just about everything that came up in the traps which couldn’t be sold.”

It was obvious that affection for cooking had rubbed off on Dwight, who expertly ladled the cream sauce (“it’s very easy to prepare”) onto the pizza dough. When I asked whether he missed island living, he paused. “I’ll always go back. There’s nothing like it. You can hear the ocean no matter where you are.”


Lobster Pizza with White Sauce

(Serves 4-6)

White Sauce

1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Flour
2-3 cloves of fresh garlic crushed or
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¾ cups  Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning


Pizza dough
4 1-1 ¼ lb. lobsters cooked and picked
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ cup fresh basil
½ cup fresh parsley

To Prepare:

  • On a low heat, melt butter and olive oil in a skillet, add garlic until just cooked
  • Turn heat up to medium, slowly add flour until mixed and bubbling
  • Pre heat the cream, add to mixture
  • Add lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, seasoning, turn heat on low
  • Pre heat oven to 500
  • Stretch dough out with flour and put on grill until dough is firm
  • Dab white sauce on and top with lobster meat
  • Cook at 500 for 5 minutes
  • Remove pizza and add lemon zest, parsley and basil; serve