Lobster – From Prison Food To A Modern Delicacy

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That expensive lobster dinner you are about to enjoy was once a staple prison food or also known as “poor man’s fish” so, how did it become such a luxurious staple in worldwide culture? And when exactly did this fishy prison food become such an expensive cuisine in America? It’s shocking to believe that once, lobster was regarded as a trashy type of meal and it was only served to lower-class citizens and prison inmates – you sure won’t find lobster in prison dining these days. Keep reading to learn more about the weird history of lobster, and why it’s such a fine-dining experience now compared to 150 years ago.

When did Lobster Become A Delicacy?

Before lobster was a gourmet dish, there was the Civil War era. In order to get food rations to soldiers, canned goods were shipped off, but demand and supply were having troubles. There was so much lobster, however, and people figured out that after lobster was cooked, it was pretty easy to can and ship off. Therefore, soldiers got their first taste of canned lobster and found it extremely delicious. In addition, it was high in protein – basically a type of chewable fuel for these soldiers who were always exhausted. It was not only cheap, but it worked.

Shortly after that, as far away as California, people were able to purchase the canned Maine lobster and try it. Then came more railroads and tourism – again, lobster was cheap and easy to provide to hungry tourists. People started eating canned lobster regularly – but they had one question – how amazing would fresh lobster be? Wealthier classes would travel all the way to New England just to try lobster, and its prices started rising due to the high demand. Only a few decades later, in the early 1900’s, lobster was already regarded as a delicacy because it had to be shipped live. Thanks to people like the millionaire Diamond Jim Brady, who would reportedly eat up to six lobsters in one sitting, lobster became a staple for the wealthier classes. In the literal span of only 50 years, lobster became a delicacy rather than a trash meal.

Why was Lobster Considered A Trash Meal?

Lobsters quite literally ‘littered’ beach shores after storms, sometimes up to two feet high. The first lobster catch was recorded in 1605, and there was a negative stigma around how much was caught. If they are littering shores and so easy to catch, they must not be of much importance, right? Wrong. Lobster was an amazing staple food for low-class citizens because there was so much of it.

It was considered the poor man’s protein – an easy way to get full and stay full for a very cheap price. However, back then, lobster was consumed a little different compared to how it is now. Lobsters were gathered by hand in droves and baked into many dishes, fricassees, and chewy soups and stews. Surprisingly enough, when new settlers arrived, people were embarrassed and apologized if all they had to offer to eat was lobster and bread! 

At the time, lobsters were absolute beasts – sometimes weighing up to 40 pounds or more. It was a quick and easy way to feed hundreds of prisoners – they were a cheap source of protein and calories. Lobsters were used for many purposes – Native Americans used the meat to fertilize crops as well as bait their fishing hooks. They were used to feed the poor, slaves, children, and prisoners – all because lobsters washed ashore in such copious amounts.

Maine Lobster in Today’s Culture

Lobsters are popular all over the world, but in America, it is considered a luxurious dish (for now). You can buy fresh lobsters in many grocery stores, butcher shops, and even online such as through Seafood University, which provides gourmet lobsters shipped right to your doorstep. Surprisingly enough, to the average New Yorker, only a 1.5 pound Maine lobster will set you back nearly $56 on average! In 2014 alone, nearly 130 million pounds of Maine lobster was contributed by Maine, whereas in the 1950’s, only about 20 million pounds were shipped out every year. 

However, things might be looking grim for Maine lobster due to animal rights activists. Lobster may go backwards in price due to this – boiling lobsters alive is becoming more and more frowned upon, and some places have even outlawed this way of cooking lobsters. Animal rights activists are looking to push away the cooking of live lobsters as it is considered inhumane, therefore, Maine lobsters might see a shrinkage of pounds sold per year.

It’s not always easy to find good lobsters. In fact, most grocery store lobsters never end up tasting like the delicious Maine lobster entrees that you would get at a five-star restaurant. This is because restaurants have their lobsters shipped to them directly and only use suppliers that are considered the best of the best – no matter how much money it ends up costing. This is why lobster meals in restaurants can be upwards of $100 sometimes compared to a lobster tail you can get at the grocery store for $15. The pros at Seafood University have you covered when it comes to delivering fresh and delicious lobsters right to your door at a rapid pace. 

Final Thoughts

It truly is strange to consider that Maine lobster was once simply a trash food, and now it’s a delicacy that we only get to enjoy every now and then or at fancy restaurants. It’s also strange to think that only a few hundred years ago, lobsters would stack up to 2-3 feet on shores and they were easily collected by hand and made into dishes. Now, we really have to outsource to get Maine lobsters or visit restaurants to have a taste. In honor of national lobster day coming up soon (June 15th) get ready to order some delicious lobster delivered right to your door with Seafood U!