Maine is lobster country. Or lobster state? Whatever, they’re known for lobsters and now is prime lobster season. As of July 2015, the market price in Maine was around $9 per pound. A hefty sum considering how tiny a one pound lobster is. That price only climbs higher once you order that sweet pinkish orange crustacean meat from a fine dining establishment.
Pricey lobster would baffle our ancestors.
Pricey lobster would baffle our ancestors. Before commercial fishing, lobsters were so abundant they were considered a nuisance. Colonialists fed them to their livestock and Native Americans used them for fertilizer. By the 17th and 18th-century, lobster was food reserved for the poor. It was even considered cruel and unusual punishment to serve lobster to servants and prisoners more than a couple times a week. Yep, lobster meat was prison food. Imagine how many cigarettes that could get today?
It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century when locomotives helped connect people to the coasts, and tourism took shape that lobsters fortunes changed for the better. Or is it worse? I guess that depends on your perspective.
Lobsters gained favor in a couple of ways. Ignorance can be a wonderful tool, and railway companies used it to sell lobster as a delicacy to those unaware of its meager position on the food ladder.
Visitors to coastal cities like Boston also found it delicious, and canned lobster became a popular tourist treat for travelers wanting to bring some back home.
Growing popularity eventually led to their now booming fishing industry. Demand ebbs and flows like the sea and certain major economic crisis like The Great Depression have resulted in large drops in price. Generally, though, these cockroaches of the sea are now the delicacy of the day.
Just imagine what lowly creature our descendants will be chowing on a century or two from now.
For a far more nuances and in-depth story on lobsters, please consider “Consider the Lobster”, by David Foster Wallace. Trust me.