If I was to ask what is one of the most expensive entrée on a menu, I’d be willing to bet the majority of us would say lobster and in most restaurants we’d be correct. But what would you say if I told you that back one hundred and fifty years ago that wasn’t the case?
Public Domain Wiki by Bart Braun
There were times after summer storms that coastal people would wake up to hundreds of stranded lobsters. The lobsters would wash up on shore and be unable to return to the sea. The promised stench of hundreds of pinching crustaceans dying on the beach motivated the locals to grab their shovels and wade through the writhing lobsters with strong claws in an attempt to scoop them up and throw them back in the sea. When you are picturing this mass of crawling, pinching creatures you need to understand that these are not the two pound lobsters we see in the supermarket and at tanks in restaurants today. These were like the goliath of lobsters. Giants that could reach well over twenty some pounds.
Oh my goodness! Can you imagine such a beast? But back 150 years ago they were as plentiful as the sand crabs on the beach. On an average day, when a north easterly or a strong storm didn’t wash up several wagon full of them, lobsters could be gathered out of small tide pools along the shore.
With the lobster so plentiful, I bet you’re thinking the people must have ate well. Perhaps they did and perhaps they didn’t. It would depend on who you talked to. See it all goes back to that age old thing called supply and demand. They had more lobster than they knew what to do with, so the mammoth sea creatures were considered garbage food much like carps are considered the garbage fish of the lakes. They were used for fertilizer to help enrich and nourish the ground of their gardens. An easy catch, they were also used for bait to catch fish they would serve at the dinner table.
However, they were used for human consumption—as inhumane as is—they were fed to servants, children, slaves, and indentured servants. That was considered cold-hearted by many, making a person eat lobster day after day. So much so that it was actually put into contracts that a servant would not have to eat lobster more than three days a week. A group of indentured servants in a Massachusetts town got so disgusted with their daily diet of lobster that they went to court filing complaints against the masters they’d sworn to serve. They won their case and would no longer have to eat lobster more than three times a week. Oh, that I should have to suffer so. :o)
Public Domain Wiki by Dieno
But on the good side of it, they were so plentiful that the poor didn’t have to go hungry. If they needed food, all they had to do was wade along the shore or walk in a tide pool and pick up their dinner. Thus, lobster was considered poor man’s food and not desired by anyone. People were actually ashamed to eat lobster. In 1881, Halifax had the privilege of English visitor, John Rowan. He watched in amazement as young boys went ‘lobster spearing’ and collected hundreds with hooks and sticks off the shore. He was noted as saying, “To give some idea of the little value put upon lobsters by the country people, I may mention that on some parts of the coast they boil them for their pigs but are ashamed to be seen eating lobsters themselves. Lobster shells about a house are looked upon as signs of poverty and degradation.”
So where have the lobster gone? The tin can and the railway were the demise of the lobster. In the early 1840’s America started canning the crustaceans (anything under 6 pounds was not considered worth using). They didn’t taste good, blackened and salty, but they were good protein and sent out west to miners. Then as the railways reached to different corners of our country—places that had never seen a live lobster—they were shipped live. People loved this new and unusual delicacy. Restaurants started serving fresh lobster and the demand soared.
A broken heart, a controlling father, and an intrusive Scot leave Charlotte Jackson reeling. Accused of stealing an heirloom pin, she must choose between an unwanted marriage and the ruin of her family name. With the futures of her three younger sisters at stake, as well as her own reputation, Charlotte must navigate through injustice to find forgiveness and true happiness.
Eager to find the traitor who caused the death of his brother, Duncan Mackenzie comes to America and attempts to fit in with Charleston society. But when the headstrong Charlotte catches his eye, Duncan takes on a second mission—acquiring the lass's hand. After being spurned several times, he uses unconventional ways of winning her heart.
Debbie Lynne Costello is the author of Sword of Forgiveness, Amazon's #1 seller for Historical Christian Romance. She has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She writes in the medieval/renaissance period as well as 19th century. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina with their 3 dogs, 4 horses, miniature donkey, and 8 ducks. Life is good!
Fascinating information! I love the part about not having lobster shells about the house. And since I love mango and Regency - I hope I win the giveaway. But most of all, I'm glad I read this riveting post. I learned a lot!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much Karla! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Please come back and leave your email so I can contact you should you win! Good luck! It sounds like the giveaway package and you are a perfect match!Delete
Who knew??! Never having had lobster myself, I've always thought of it as the rich person's food. Funny that it was originally the other way round!ReplyDelete
Can't imagine the size of the lobsters you were talking about! That's enormous! My kids would definitely have liked to see lobsters that size. Even today, they always want to visit the lobster tank at the grocery store. There is apparently something fascinating about lobsters! :)
Oh I know! I could always find my boys around those tanks. It was like a magnet for them. It is funny how supply and demand really plays a part in our likes and dislikes. It isn't like the quality of lobster changed just the perceptive of them. Love lobster dipped in butter! We used to buy poor man's lobster which is Monk fish, however that is rich man's lobster now. LOL. Last time I went to get some it had out priced what I was willing to pay.Delete
Hi Debby Lynn, this was such a fun post! I had no idea this was how lobster was viewed in the past. Thanks for sharing!! I'm so excited that you are now represented by Tamela Hancock Murray! She has such a great reputation and works witih my agent, Steve Laube. So we are sort of "sisters" in our representation. : )ReplyDelete
Carrie! Thank you for coming by! I LOVE Tamela!! Thank you for sharing my excitement. So we are sisters now? How cool is that?!!!Delete
Hi Debby, I would gladly take all the books you need to find homes for, I have lived near Savannah for many years and enjoy reading stories that are set in the SC/Ga area. Lobster is not something I ever eat or want to but your story was interesting. I am a steak kind of person...ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing your gift basket and the book, hope to win...
Hey Paula! Thanks for coming by. Oh I love Savannah and Charleston. Everything i write is set in those areas. LOL! WEll, nothing wrong with a good steak! I like lobster as long as I don't have to see him before I eat him. Something about that makes me want to just let him go back into the sea. I'm just a softie when it comes to animals.Delete
I loved the story about lobsters. Who would have known? LOL. I've been to Maine several times, and we have always stopped at roadside stands for fresh lobster. One of my favorites, and a bit more affordable than in a Grand Rapids restaurant! What a beautiful giveaway! Thank you for offering this lovely contest!ReplyDelete
Hey Nancee! We went up to Kennybunkport and ate at a little mom and pops place. What was really cool about it was it was where George Bush would go to eat. They had pictures on the wall. Very fun! And of course the lobster was great!Delete
Not so sure about the lobster - I am really not a fan....lol However, I am getting a brand new bathtub, and might be enticed to read in it if I win the basket. :) Thanks for the giveaway and another tidbit of history!ReplyDelete
LOL Betti. Nothing like relaxing in mango bath saltz while you read a great Regency! Good luck and thanks for stopping by! It's good to see you here. :o)Delete
Wow, what a cool post! Who'd a thunk? Thanks for sharing today. :)ReplyDelete
Thank you Anna. It's amazing how much cool history is out there. I mean I never would have thought I'd find such interesting stuff when I started researching fishing and crabbing! Gotta love history! Good luck!Delete
I love how the Lord takes unsuitable matches and makes them His own!! Would love to win this copy of Before the Season Ends by Linore Rose Burkard. Kathleen ~ Lane Hill HouseReplyDelete
Thanks for coming by! It's great to see you here, Kathleen. Good luck on winning!Delete
Wow! A poor man's food? I wish! LOL This was a very fascinating post, Debbie, now I want lobster....and crab! :)ReplyDelete
No need to enter me into the contest. I already own Linore's book. God bless.
Awe thanks for stopping by Chaplain Debbie. I'm glad you enjoyed the post!Delete
Great blog, Debbie Lynne! What a fascinating history of lobster as a menu item. Hard to believe that people actually went to court to keep from having to eat lobster more than three times a week. LOL I think I could eat Red Lobster's lobster bisque soup and langostino lobster mashed potatoes at least three times a week without complaint. :)ReplyDelete
I know right? Love a good lobster bisque soup. And just think the butter they had to dip their lobster in! Oh my goodness. Fresh sweet butter. Yum!!!Delete
yes, great post! We vacation in Maine from time to time, and they would feed them to the prisoners up there. The convicts had laws on the books similar to the servants' that they wouldn't have to eat the lobster more than once a day. Funny how time and tide changes things. ;)ReplyDelete
Yes, I read that they fed them to prisoners, too. Really amazing that they'd trade a lobster for a chicken. LOLDelete
Interesting blog - just goes to show that we can get too much of ANY good thing! Thanks for the opportunity to win the book & bath basket!ReplyDelete
Yep that's right, Bonnie. I guess just like the Israelites and the quail. Good luck!Delete
I had to chuckle at the servants suing their owners over lobster. Must have been the manna of the day. :)ReplyDelete
LOL! I just mentioned the quail. heehee. Yep must have been.Delete
I guess it's easy to get tired of anything, if we have to eat it day after day. My oh my! I haven't eaten a whole lobster for years! Interesting article!ReplyDelete
may_dayzee (at) yahoo (dot) com
Thanks Kay. I guess we can get tired of anything. But I'm more a person who can eat the same thing over and over and not tire of it. But over years I probably would.Delete
Who would have know that? I love history thanks for sharing today's post. It was very interesting. I'm not a big fan of lobster but I know some people in my family who would love to have one of those giant lobsters.ReplyDelete
johnsonk133 at yahoo dot com
Hey Katie! I'd love to see one of those giant lobsters...Alive that is. Who would have thought we could have a history lesson on lobster? LOLDelete
I love to relax with a good book in the tub. You can forget your worries for a little while. Thank you for the giveaway.ReplyDelete
griperang at embarqmail dot com
Hey Angela! Your my kind of person. Nothing like it is there? Only problem is keeping the bath water warm long enough. ;o)Delete
I agree - I never knew that about lobsters...that was so interesting...I love reading stuff like this and sharing with my family over a dinner meal - it usually start out with "Did you know...?" thanks for the giveaway too.ReplyDelete
truckredford (at) gmail (dot) com
Heehee. Thanks Eliza! I find this kind of stuff fascinating! Good luck on the giveaway!Delete
ahhh a soak in the tub with your mango gift basket goodies sounds lovely....of course reading your book. I also LOVE lobster. When we were kids we had TORSK...which mom called "Poor Man's Lobster"...cod fish I believe...she boiled, and added butter and lemon to. It was good too.ReplyDelete
Do you enjoy lobster? Do you fish?
Thanks for coming by. hmmmm I do like lobster but prefer crab and I like a mild fish if I can dip it in butter! I love anything if I can dip it in butter. LOL> Please leave your email addy so I can contact you should you win the drawing. :o)ReplyDelete
Woah, I cannot imagine seeing those big things on the shore - especially trying to shovel them back into the water!! Boy, the things you learn while researching. Thanks for a fun post!ReplyDelete
farmygirl at hotmail dot com
LOL! Can you imagine walking on the beach at dark? It'd be enough to keep me off the beach. Thanks for coming by Susan. Good luck on the drawing.ReplyDelete
Oh yes, no late night beach walking for me!! :)Delete
I really had no idea that lobster eating had such a history or that they were garbage seafood. Did you do the research about lobsters for a book or something specific? It was fascinating, thanks for sharing!ReplyDelete
I was doing research for fishing/crabbing and ran across this tidbit. It was so interesting that I got side tracked. Lol. Thanks for coming by and good luck!ReplyDelete
Debbie, that is so interesting. To think that lobsters were unwanted and then were food for the poor. Today, that thought is reversed as lobster is costly due to the method of catching them.ReplyDelete
Hey Deanna! I know. Just think if we could pick up our lobster off the shore! Thanks for coming by, and good luck!Delete
Hey Jorie! Let me guess, you love Regency. LOL> So many Regency lovers out there. You are not alone! Do you get Linore Rose Burkard's Regency News Letters? If not, you will love them! Just go to her website and sign up. Linore knows Regency like the back of her hand and sends out lovely newsletters filled with Regency information along with beautiful pictures! And so glad you are back with us here at The Society! Good Luck!ReplyDelete
Living in Maine, I've long been fascinated by the history of lobsters. It really has changed over the years, hasn't it? It is my absolute FAVORITE food. I've seen some of those gigantic shells in person at local museums that they are amazing to see. This was a wonderful post! Great website!ReplyDelete
Thanks for coming by Carla and I'm so glad you enjoyed my post! I would love to see some of those gigantic shells in person.Delete
AND THE WINNER OF THE MANGO BATH BASKET AND BEFORE THE SEASON ENDS BOOK IS...KATIE J!! CONGRATULATIONS, KATIE! I'VE SENT YOU AN EMAIL. PLEASE SEND ME YOUR ADDRESS SO I CAN MAIL YOU YOUR PRIZE!!ReplyDelete