Let’s pause today to consider, if not praise, the mighty Lobster. It was once known as “The Cockroach of the Sea”, I know Heh! (Oh, I just tripped over my Canadian background), just the word “cockroach” makes me cringe. The lobster, then at a later time was re-named “The Armoured Knight of the Ocean” and lastly “Seafood Royalty”.

Now I generally enjoy and devour just one of these a year, just to satisfy my craving of the little creature because they are so pricey and sometimes skipping a year if the price is so so high it makes my head spin. So when I do get an opportunity to treat myself, my fun meter just blows up when I crack and pick the little bugger and dip it in the melted gold, so delicate and sweet in taste. OK, cross that off my yearly bucket list.

So, after an adventuring jaunt to my Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Timoney in Auburn, my friend (love her!) Barbara M. suggested stopping at LaRochelle’s Seafood in Auburn and I discovered that the price per pound was as low as $4.50 to $8.50. A lobster for $5.00? No Way! Hellooo!!! My Scrappy Chef mode kicked in. We were greeted with huge friendly smiles. Neil, the owner, very proud and edified, gave us a journey through his galactic holding tanks, lobsters all separated into categories. In the storefront room, the large case featured the freshest of the freshest oysters, scallops, crab, shrimp and here’s the best part, you could also order a seafood dinner cooked fresh, piled high, with handcut fries, Cole slaw from $6.99 to $14.99, and it was so delicious, and still we weren’t able to finish the whole thing.

Once called the poor man’s protein, it was only fit for the poor, servants, prisoners and being soldiers’ staples to everyone’s idea of a delicacy, “The Cockroach of The Sea”- some 150 years ago, did become one of the most remarkable re-branding in product history.

Ordering it in a restaurant, serving it at parties indicating that one’s favorite food is lobster, is not at all the same thing as doing all of that with, say Turkey or even more, lamb. No! Lobster is expensive, it’s delicious, but also means an forsaking thriftiness and signifies the use of coin for the pursuit of pleasure. So, if one could imagine lobster talking, in my book, it probably have a British accent, and most probably be wearing a top hat, a monocle and an opera cape!

Have you had lobster at a restaurant lately? Joking aside, lobster is really expensive. What makes a food delicious doesn’t make it popular. Pricing is tied directly to the supply, and how much of it can be caught. It sounds like it should be obvious Economics 101. It’s basic supply and demand.

If today’s lobster wears a top hat, 80 years ago he wore overalls and was probably picking up garbage. The lobster is a self made creature and quite the social climber. So how did they climb the social ladder?

It was so plentiful in the early days, it was cheap to prepare, good and nutritious. Colonists of Mass Bay Colony gathered them by hand. They were so plentiful, washing up on the shores in two feet high piles, thought of as trash. Just imagine lobsters on top of lobsters on top of lobsters. In 1622 Governor Wm. Bradford of Plymouth plantation, was embarrassed to admit to new colonist the abundance of the lobster. It was then, rumor has it, colonies had to sign contracts promising servants and prisoners they wouldn’t be fed lobster more than 3X a week. People did eat it, but not happily and not usually openly, shells of the creature were looked upon as signs of poverty and degradation, because it was, fter all an unfamiliar vaguely disgusting bottom feeding ocean dweller that kind of resembled an insect.

The 1800’s, lobster could be bought in cans (20-47 cents a can) like Spam or tuna, fairly priced at about 11 cents a pound and usually fed to the house cat. Maine covered the coast with canneries, actively producing using lobsters 5 pounds and above. The Me. Dept. of Marine Resources stated that these canneries were so efficient at processing, they were then forced to work with 3 or 4 pounders, which were considered too small and put back, before regulations were imposed on the trade.

At Maine Lobster Now, laws were enforced to protect the population and habitat of the breeder lobster, these were meant to catch and release the female (sometimes called a Hen) who can have up to a million eggs each, populating our oceans. It takes her 7 years to be fully grown to reproduce, then stores her eggs for about 15 months until she lays and moves on. Unlike NH and MA, our conservation laws protects the habitats of our future lobsters.

It wasn’t until late 19th century, the railways of America started to spread West. Railcar chefs recognized that lobster could be served, unsuspectingly to passengers as a foreign food as if it was rare, even though the cost for transporting was very, very low. People became to love it, not really knowing it’s value as trash and it became so popular with chefs they started to cook it whole for it made a better presentation on the plate and like bread, whiskey, butter or pickles, it took off like crazy. American’s taste perception for it drove the demand up and the fishermen noticed fewer and fewer in their catch, driving the cost up.~Supply and Demand. (Economics 100)

Prices hit their first peak in the 1920’s. The depression affected pricing structure as no one could afford it anymore and it gave the fisherman time to recover slowly with the economy. In the 40’s, artificial government started to impose pricing structure which at one point, lobster prices surged more than 18%-22%. According to Neil from LaRochelles’, “comparing today’s prices structure to that, last March for example”, he says “prices hiked to $12.00 a pound wholesale”.

In the 50’s, lobster had positioned itself as a delicacy, an exotic trendy commodity, popular with movies stars, new-rich families and what the Rockefellers served at dinner parties or an evening out eaten as a decadent dinner.

Tourist flock to the coast of Maine and Cape Cod, MA to eat lobster meals on picnic tables near the ocean satisfying a fancy New England vacation dream. Lobster meat is much richer and more substantial than most fish, its taste, subtle compared to marine-gaminess of mussels and crabs makes you crave that pleasure. Now, it’s sold at market rate, with all the “depends on”.

It’s re-branding came about as the lobster climbed his social ladder. Social influences on food and our eating habits impacted many factors. You enjoy it because people around you seem to enjoy it.

~Pabst Blue Ribbon beer went from a working class mid-western beer to Brooklyn’s preferred hipster beverage, no recipe change.

~ Marlboro once considered a poorly selling woman’s cigarette was re-branded using cowboys on horse and directed to the macho man.

~Hence, our lobster on his climb to society, also most successfully re-branded. Lobster seems to taste better to us “because it’s so expensive”.

~Nothing about the product changed, but if peer pressure and behavior around the product changes, so does our appreciation of it. (Economics 102)

Lobsters have a weird anatomy, and many are afraid to pick them up, they look gross, except cooked on the platter, but they are healthy, lower in calories than an equal portion of skinned chicken. It offers healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, Potassium and is high in Vitamins E, B-12 and B-6.

~Fun fact: The Guinesses Book of World Records registerred the largest recorded lobster weighed in at 44.4 pounds and was found in Nova Scotia.

 

The Recipes

Grilling lobster is a little unorthodox, but the dry heat permeates the lobster meat with the taste of the shell, giving it a more complex, caramelized flavor. It’s the same reason meat cooked on the bone taste better. When I tried it, I totally fell in love with the flavor. Grilling my lobster will be my go to from now on.

Grilled Lobster Serves 4

Ingredients:

4–1 1/2 pound live lobsters, halved lengthwise (from tail up and clean the insides).

Olive Oil

1-2 large lemons, cut into wedges

Butter sauce (Recipe below)

Directions:

1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat, 400* to 450*. (If you’re using charcoal, build a medium-high fire and wait for coals to turn gray).

2. Drizzle lobster halves with the olive oil.

3. Place lobsters on the grill, shell down. DO NOT turn lobsters during cooking or you’ll lose the butter and juices. The shell acts as a boat and keeps all the flavors in.

4. Grill for about 5-6 minutes, drizzle (or spread) some of the garlic and herb butter sauce, place garlic or shallots stems on top, squeeze 2 lemon wedges on top of the halves and place it with the shallots/garlic stems on top of your lobster halves. Cook another 4-5 minutes to infuse the flavors. If the shells start to blacken, slide them to a cooler part of the grill. Check for firmness and translucency and remove them to a platter, place a sheet of aluminum foil loosely on top let rest for 5 minutes and served with additional lemon wedges and melted butter and remaining butter sauce as well.

Basic Butter Compound

1 pound of unsalted butter, sliced

1/3 cup of white wine

1/8 cup red vinegar

3 whole shallots, with stems, or 2 whole garlic or chives with stems. (I took fresh garlic out of my garden) finely minced. (use the head and about 2 inches of the green stems)

or use 3 tbs minced garlic

1 1/2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning

1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper

1 tsp. tarragon

a generous pinch of cayenne pepper

1/2 of a lemon, juiced

Directions:

1. Combine in a small pan over medium heat, wine, vinegar and shallots/garlic heads.

2. Bring to a simmer and reduce until you have 2 tablespoons of liquid, slowly add sliced butter whisking until each piece melts. Keep it moving and do not let it get too hot or too cool or it will break.

When the butter is all melted, add the dry ingredients, whisking smoothly. Remove from heat and keep warm.

If you want to keep it basic you can do this Lemon Butter, you just won’t have the flavors of the white wine which heightens the flavor of the butter.

For 2 servings, or two lobsters. (Double for 4)

2 sticks of butter, soften

2 tsp. lemon juice

2 tsp. fresh, chopped parsley

2 tsp fresh, chopped chives or shallots

2 tsp. fresh, chopped basil

Whip the butter in a small bowl, add the ingredients, mix well.

***There are endless ways to flavor the butters, refer back to my recent Butter article, and last years Corn on the Cob article, you’ll have 30 different ways to flavor your butter. If you need a reprint of those, send me an E-mail with the request and information and I’ll get it out to you. I want you to try to grill your lobster, you’ll be colored happy! As always, your love, ideas and comments are always welcomed at [email protected] ~Happy Fooding! ~Happy Lobstering!~And the last words:

~”The proper place to eat a lobster…is in a lobster shack as close to the sea as possible. There is no menu card because there is nothing else to eat except boiled lobster with melted butter”.~Pearl S. Buck


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.