Lobster is a delicacy today, but it was once prison slop
Lobster today is common on the menus of gourmet restaurants — it’s expensive food. This delicious seafood is most commonly enjoyed by the rich and powerful because they are extremely pricey. But do you know that before the mid-1800s lobsters were considered so undesirable and too plentiful that only those without financial means eat them such as the poor, slaves, and prisoners?
The lobsters, canned food, and railway transportation
Back in the days when the first European settlers had yet to reach North America, it was said that lobsters were so plentiful that they would just pile up ashore the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Locals thought the massive pile of “cockroaches of the sea” were too unsightly that they found various ways to use them, ways that people nowadays would find unbelievable.
Do you know what Native Americans and colonists did with the tons of lobsters? They used them as fertilizers and fish bait. The ultra-expensive delicacy few people afford now were just thrown on the ground or fed to fishes.
Since lobsters were so plentiful, they became the go-to source of protein during hard times. When harvests or seasons were bad, people grudgingly eat lobsters for sustenance. The lobster eventually gained the reputation as being the “poor man’s meal”. To save owners and officials some money, lobsters were also fed to prisoners and slaves.
The fate of the lowly lobster changed with the onset of canned food and railway transportation. Lobsters were made into canned products and those in areas who never had them loved it, lobsters became the most popular canned product in the market.
Since people can now travel to areas with lobsters because of easy access to trains, fresh lobsters became popular with tourists. Coast dwellers marketed lobsters as a delicacy and since they were tasty, tourists did not think that they were paying to eat what locals regard as trash.
Considering the “rebranding” of lobsters and the development of various lobster recipes, the demand for lobsters were so high that prices started surging in the 1880s. By World War II, the status of lobster was completely different, and it has not changed since.