Friday, December 31, 2021

Lobster for the Poor! How this Crustacean Became a Decadent Fare


"Lobster shells in the home are regarded as a sign of poverty and degradation," wrote author John J. Rowan in 1876.  Due to the overpopulation of the crustacean on the coasts of the New England states, lobster was long considered frowned-upon junk food in the United States. 

No wealthy person wanted to be seen eating the "cockroach of the seas," especially when they had their own land animals to fall back on.  The mass-available protein source, on the other hand, was reserved for the poor, servants, prisoners, and slaves.  For a time, the American lobster was so cheap that it was sold in cans like tuna, and people even fed lobster to their cats.

Decadent Fare
How did it go from cat food to decadent gourmet fare?  By the introduction of American rail transportation in the mid-19th century, Lobster was served on trains across the country precisely because it was so inexpensive - but presented to passengers as a rare exotic food.

Domestic travelers were unfamiliar with lobster and acquired a taste for it in the travel situation. They simply did not know that it was "poor man's food."  It became such a popular product that demand caused the price to rise and supply to become scarce.  The sea roach became a luxury item and an elite mark of distinction.  At last, even the rich could afford to be poor.




Translated with (free version)

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