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The Delightful History of Lobsters

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Ravi loves writing within the cusp of relationships, history, and the bizarre, where boundaries are blurred and possibilities are immense.

The story of how the ubiquitous lobster once called with disdain as the “cockroach of the ocean” went from a poor man’s food to an expensive, gourmet delicacy.

The story of how the ubiquitous lobster once called with disdain as the “cockroach of the ocean” went from a poor man’s food to an expensive, gourmet delicacy.

Are You a Lobster Lover?

You know the situation perfectly if you are a lobster lover.

A 'reasonable’ lobster dinner in a big city is one of the most expensive menu items, ranging from $30 to $50 for a mid-sized lobster. The price can run even higher depending on where you are dining.

And unlike other fisheries or farms, lobster farming is difficult as the crustaceans grow slowly, eat a lot, and are susceptible to a very contagious lobster disease. That is the reason that lobsters are synonymous with luxury. It is a status symbol and an indulgent delicacy for most families to be eaten only on very special occasions. As Greg Elwell, the food critic writes.

"Lobster is fancy. If you imagine a lobster talking, it probably has a British accent. Draw an animated lobster and I bet you’ll include a top hat, a monocle, and an opera cape."

But it was not always like that.

Back in the 1700s, the lobsters were considered trashy and repellent food and called the ‘cockroaches of the sea’. Only the less fortunate people namely widows, orphans, prison inmates, and servants consumed it.

Lobster shells lying around a house’s front yard was considered a sign of poverty and moral degradation. Sometimes its shells were ground up and used as manure but beyond that, lobsters were considered dirt food not fit for ‘normal’ human beings.

But little could anybody guess that within less than 100 years, the invention of the railways would usher in a golden era for the ubiquitous lobster.

Within less than 100 years, the invention of the railways would usher in a golden era for the ubiquitous lobster.

Within less than 100 years, the invention of the railways would usher in a golden era for the ubiquitous lobster.

The Story of the Lobster

Indeed, lobsters were so abundant in the early days of the American Massachusetts Bay Colony that the governor of the colony William Bradford, was embarrassed to admit to newly-arrived colonists that the only food they ‘could present their friends with was a lobster ,without bread or anything else but a cup of water’.

Later, there were also rumors that the servants revolted against serving the lobsters and finally won an injunction that they would be served lobsters a maximum of three times a week and no more.

This hatred for lobsters took a complete U-turn less than a hundred years later when railways began to spread across America. As the railways connected the length and breadth of the American continent, railway managers found that the ‘inland’ customers do not know what a lobster is and they could serve it as a rare sea delicacy.

Inland passengers were intrigued. The lobster was delicious. They asked for more, unknown to the fact the coastal people considered them as trash.

By the 1950s lobsters became the uncrowned king of seafood delicacy.

By the 1950s lobsters became the uncrowned king of seafood delicacy.

Lobsters Became the King of Seafood

By the 1880s the chefs began to cook lobsters in better ways. They cooked it live, spiked it with butter and garlic, and made it a lot more appetizing to look at.

Soon restaurants started to serve lobster in the salad section, like bread and butter pickles or cottage cheese. Americans started to love lobster and refrigeration and ice packing further allowed lobstermen to ship their product inland, spreading its fame.

Demand overtook the supply and soon lobster prices hit the roof in the 1920s. But came the great depression and lobsters became unaffordable for most people. The lobster was again demoted to provide a cheap source of protein for the American soldiers. But this lobster slowdown did not last for long.

By the 1950s lobsters had regained their position as of the uncrowned king of seafood delicacy. Lobsters were firmly established as a gastronomic delight across the world and eating it became a status symbol for all classes, from newly minted rich families to the Rockefellers.

Movie stars were photographed dining out on the delicacy. Restaurants began serving it as an exotic treat. Prices rose and have remained like that till this day.

Thus, by a strange twist of fate and the imagination of a visionary railway manager who first thought of serving lobsters in a railway dining car, the ubiquitous lobster attained legendary fame.

Just imagine what would have happened if the dining cars had continued serving liver or processed ham. Was it a turning point in culinary history? The next time you savior a sweet lobster, do think about it.

Sources

© 2021 Ravi Rajan

Comments

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 28, 2021:

Thanks Sankhajit

Sankhajit Bhattacharjee from MILWAUKEE on September 28, 2021:

really a relishing item...

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 28, 2021:

Thanks Vidya

VIDYA D SAGAR on September 28, 2021:

It was interesting and enjoyable to read the history of Lobsters, Ravi. Thanks for this delightful story.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 28, 2021:

ravi, you're again welcome.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 28, 2021:

Thanks Misbah

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Poets on September 28, 2021:

My mum is a seafood lover and a fan of lobsters. Though, I can't eat them. Eerytime I see lobsters I feel like they are staring me. Lol! Thanks for sharing this informative article. It was an interesting read.

Blessings to you as always!!

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 28, 2021:

Thanks Miebakagh

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 28, 2021:

Ravi, as a fisherman, I usually return with some while on a fishing tripe. The meat when treat freshly is very crumchy and very delicious. Not only that but nutritious as well.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 27, 2021:

Thanks Miebakagh

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 27, 2021:

I very much appreciated the read...factual and informational.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 27, 2021:

Thanks Chitrangada for your comments

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 27, 2021:

An interesting read about the Lobsters. Yes, there are people, who love this seafood. I enjoyed reading about it’s history.

Thank you for sharing this interesting information.

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