Lobster Used to Be ‘The Cockroach of the Sea’ and Only Fed to Servants and Cats

lobster-was-a-sign-of-poverty

When someone says “lobster” some words that might come to mind are delicacy, fancy, luxurious and most dismally, market price. However, it wasn’t always this way. Formerly regarded as “the cockroach of the sea” and fed to servants, migrants and even people’s cats, lobster was the laughing stock of seafood. Regarded as a dish fit only for the poor, even having lobster shells in your house was looked upon as a sign of poverty. Yet today lobster is seen as the poshest of the posh, the cousin of caviar. So, how the hell did this happen?

It starts with industrialization. When the railways began to expand across America, transportation managers realized that if no one apart from people who lived on the coast knew what lobster was, trains could serve it to inland passengers as if it were a rare, exotic item. This plan seemed to work as people started demanding lobsters beyond the railways and it didn’t hurt that around this same time in the late 1800s, chefs discovered lobsters tasted much better when cooked live. Restaurants, too, got the memo. Then during World War II, lobsters weren’t rationed like other foods, and so people of all classes began to eat it and “discover” its deliciousness. By the 1950s, lobster established itself as a bona fide luxury food item.

So what have we learned here? Lobster itself never changed over time, but rather the perceptions and attitudes of people towards lobster that drove the change in consumer behavior. Nowadays, lobster holds a place as one of the most expensive items at a restaurant or reserved for special occasions only. That being said, we bet it’s only a few more years ’til spam becomes the filet mignon of red meat.

H/T PSMag + Picthx kriscip



A hungry American expat living in London, Erica has an insatiable appetite for all things meat, cheese and Thanksgiving fare.



In this article:
  • Nelson Abreu

    It still is the cockroach of the sea.

    • Linda Lovelush

      It’s the best tasting cockroach I can think of, LOL

  • RecklessProcess

    Crab and Lobster and Shrimp are all large underwater bugs

    • Daniel A Bernath

      And when they get together, what do you think they call YOU!?

    • JiGGLeBiLLy

      Yup, just water-breathing members of the Arachnid family.

  • Hard Little Machine

    I want to meet not the first person who ate a lobster but the second. Because the first one he was starving and saw a giant sea bug and didn’t care. But the second guy saw the first guy die from it because it wasn’t cooked right and he ate a giant poison sea bug.

  • Maggiemay

    The more primitive the ‘fish’, the better it tastes.

    • Gus Mueller

      Keep telling yourself that.

  • Anonymous

    Lobster Fun Fact: There is a law on the books in Maine, which restricts the state from feeding prison inmates lobster more than 3 times a week. When I went to college in Maine in the 80′s, it was cheaper to buy lobster at ‘Shop n’ Save’ than it was to buy hamburger and at the waterfront, they swapped at a 12 pack of PBR for a milk crate of lobsters, lol.

    Have a great day!

  • Anonymous

    Please read this great American essay on the lobster :)

    http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s/2004/08/consider_the_lobster

  • AJ

    I can’t believe that this is still a “surprising thing” to anyone who can read.

  • Gus Mueller

    Having lobster sells in your house as a sign of poverty? It’s a sign of not taking out the trash, nothing more.

  • http://www.myqute.com/blog kelly

    Even brown unpolished rice (fiber-rich) was looked down upon and the white rice was “food for the richer”. ahaha Stupidest creature are none other than us humans.

  • http://odai.me/ Odai

    I’ve heard that the taste of lobster actually has changed – lobsters caught back then tended to be old and have tough, stringy meat.

    As more and more lobsters were fished, the average age of a captured lobster steadily dropped, leading to a sweeter and softer meat.

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