I just returned from Boston, where among other wonderful experiences, I had the pleasure of consuming my very first lobster. To be fair, I have eaten lobster meat on a few occasions. Enough occasions, in fact, to count on two fingers. I had lobster risotto at my parents house over Christmas this year (delicious!) and lobster in ravioli once years ago. But this was my first whole lobster.
The beastly crustacean weighed almost two pounds, and I ordered it stuffed with shrimp and scallops and topped in buttery breadcrumbs. Of course, there was a saucer of clarified butter on the side for dipping. It is absolutely the truth when people describe lobster meat as sweet. It is a sweet yet savory flavor, not sweet like sugar but sweet like something that is more delicate than average. The meat had a great solid texture, very dense and satisfying but still tender. Plus, after the hard work of extracting the meat from the shell, the morsels of lobster felt like a well-earned prize. I rounded out the meal with clam chowder, seaweed salad, and grilled polenta, while my Mom had crab cakes. We finished everything with Boston Cream Pie. It was a very thematic East Coast seafood experience.
As I at the meal (and later paid the bill!), I could hardly fathom how lobster used to be considered peasant food? Lobsters were so abundant in the early days of Boston that the cold North Atlantic coast was literally teaming with them. I suppose their abundance made them ordinary. I read that early farmers in New England and Canada used to scoop them up by the bucketful and bury the carcasses in their rows of crops as fertilizer. Lobster was peasant food. In fact, eating lobster was considered a mark of poverty. I learned that it wasn't until the advent of the train that lobsters became a luxury food. In the 1800's live lobsters would be shipped via locomotive inland where they needed to be kept living in tanks and cooked and served fresh. The cost of shipping and keeping the lobster alive meant they were only available to those with means, and thus lobster converted from peasant food to special occasion dining.
My lobsters was a treat, both because it was a lavish meal, but also because of the lovely location, the special event of a trip to Boston, and the great company I shared during the meal (Mom!).