Use code SIDECHEF for $10 off your first shoppable recipe order.

A Brief History of Eating New England Lobster

From low-brow to high class, a look at the east coast's most sought-after crustacean.

Semele Turro

A proud Oxegen ‘09 graduate, she drinks builder’s tea, makes a fierce fry, and in 2011 a regular at the Garrick told her she poured the best pint of Guinness he’d ever had.

Love This Recipe?

Semele Turro

A proud Oxegen ‘09 graduate, she drinks builder’s tea, makes a fierce fry, and in 2011 a regular at the Garrick told her she poured the best pint of Guinness he’d ever had.

After living in Boston for a couple years it's hard not to have a deep appreciation for those delicious little water scorpions we call lobsters. To say New England is obsessed with the lobster is an understatement. They're a part of the culture - from art to employment, and in a region defined by some of the world's best seafood, lobsters reign supreme.

But that wasn't always the case. In the not too distant past lobster was not the MKT price menu item it is today. Served in soups and stews, broiled and boiled, people have been eating lobster for a long time. There is evidence of lobster being eaten in ancient Egypt and Rome and there are recipes featuring our shellfish friends dating back to the European Middle Ages. Back then the lobster enjoyed a high-class status. It wasn’t until European colonists came to the Americas that lobster's standing took a social nose dive.

One would think that a bunch of people stuck on a boat for months would be happy to see heaps of lobsters ready for the munching when they landed on what is now the shores of Massachusetts, but evidently the ease of access to this source of healthy protein would torpedo the lobster to being a commodity worth less than baked beans. In the 1600s, it was not uncommon for piles of lobster 2ft high to wash up on the coasts of the American Northeast. The indigenous peoples of what is now Cape Cod, the Wampanoag, regularly ate lobster and it was supposedly a featured menu item at the first Thanksgiving. In fact, the Wampanoag’s style of baking lobster has remained popular through today as the likely precursor to the New England classic, the clambake.

However, only a few short years after the colonization of Massachusetts, the serving of lobster became an embarrassing admittance of a lack of means for colonists. So common was the lobster that it was used as bait and, as William Wood noted in his 1634 survival guide New England Prospects, “plenty makes them little esteemed and seldome [sic] eaten.” Abundant, accessible, and nutritious, lobster quickly became the food of the lower classes.

The advent of canning would initially further support the lobster’s fall from grace. Poor families could buy cans of lobster to have healthy protein yearound. To make canning more efficient lobsters had to be caught smaller, which affected the health of lobster populations. Then the ever expanding mid-1800s railway system gave canneries access beyond the coasts and lobster quickly became an affordable protein option across the nation. Eventually overfishing and demand, with a little help from World War I rationing, made the lobster a suddenly scarce commodity.

The American Middle Class of the 1920s began to demand the nostalgic taste of lobster salad and lobster dinners. Not long thereafter lobster started to reappear in American cookbooks, restaurants, and on the dinner tables of socialites and movie stars - just like that the lobster was back! Around the 1920s was also when the iconic lobster roll made its first appearance. There are largely two types of lobster rolls: served cold as a salad mixed with mayonnaise or served (correctly) hot and buttered. Don’t choose wrong like my husband.

Lobster's history in America has had its ups and downs, but at the end of the day the lobster ended up back on top, synonymous with implied wealth and Bermuda shorts.

Sign Up for the SideChef
Newsletter
Get weekly recipes, grocery shopping, meal planning, and home-cooking inspiration sent straight in your inbox
Will be used in accordance with our PRIVACY POLICY.
CULINARY PARTNER FEATURE
Blogger Spotlight: Jon Bailey of 2DadsWithBaggage
RECIPE REVIEW
Here are the Winners of Our Mac and Cheese Taste-Off
WHAT TO READ THIS WEEK
Easy Ways to Get Your Kids in the Kitchen
TIPS & TRICKS
More American than Apple Pie
CULINARY PARTNER FEATURE
4 Professional Bloggers on their Supermom Powers
TRENDING
How To: Poke Bowls
CULINARY PARTNER FEATURE
Busy Mom Robin Deem of CaliGirl Cooking
WHAT TO READ THIS WEEK
Virtual Munch for Mother’s Day Brunch
LET'S GET PERSONAL
Spring Clean Your Ingredients
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Healthy Snack Hacks
LEARN COOK EAT
Three Reasons Why We are Excited about Walmart+
CELEBRATE, HOST, ENTERTAIN
Host a Game Day Party That Wins
CULINARY PARTNER FEATURE
Blogger Spotlight: Jon Bailey of 2DadsWithBaggage
Take a glimpse into doting father Jon Bailey’s insights on food and how they’re raising two teenage girls.
RECIPE REVIEW
Here are the Winners of Our Mac and Cheese Taste-Off
Extra cheese, please! In our first culinary partner throwdown, Marley’s Menu’s classic mac and cheese recipe gets high honors
WHAT TO READ THIS WEEK
Easy Ways to Get Your Kids in the Kitchen
Introducing your little ones to the kitchen early on is a great way to get them interested in what they’re eating, and will help them as they ultimately transition to cooking for themselves.
TIPS & TRICKS
More American than Apple Pie
Make these delicious apple pies at home when you’re missing the taste of your favorite fast food dessert: the ever-present and decade-spanning McDonald's classic apple pie.
CULINARY PARTNER FEATURE
4 Professional Bloggers on their Supermom Powers
Motherhood is hard work, but the amazing moms of our Culinary Partner Network sure make it look easy!
TRENDING
How To: Poke Bowls
Poke bowls are a delicious, compact way to enjoy a burst of Hawaiian flavor. Packed with fresh fish, tons of veggies, and a sprinkling of savory toppings, they are super nutritious and easy to put together. Get ready to say aloha to your new favorite meal!
CULINARY PARTNER FEATURE
Busy Mom Robin Deem of CaliGirl Cooking
The food blogger and mom on how she got started and how she helps other busy moms find balance in their homes.
WHAT TO READ THIS WEEK
Virtual Munch for Mother’s Day Brunch
Sharing mom’s breakfast magic from near or far
LET'S GET PERSONAL
Spring Clean Your Ingredients
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Healthy Snack Hacks
When the school year or workweek gets busy, it’s tempting to rely on pre-packaged snacks that are easy to grab. With this in mind, we’ve created a list of healthy substitutions that all contain simple and accessible ingredients.
LEARN COOK EAT
Three Reasons Why We are Excited about Walmart+
One of our favorite grocers just released a service to make all of our lives easier and we couldn't be happier about it.
CELEBRATE, HOST, ENTERTAIN
Host a Game Day Party That Wins
Hosting can be stressful, especially when team pride is at stake. If you've got the duty this round, here are five easy tips to make it a smooth ride to victory!
You're one smart cookie! 🍪
By using this site, you agree to the use of cookies by SideChef and our partners for analytics and personalized content. ACCEPT
SideChef: 18k Recipes, Meal Planner, Grocery List, Personalization
INSTALL APP
Make cooking easy
Discover personalized recipes, organize your meal plans, shop ingredients, and cook with confidence alongside our FREE, step-by-step cooking app.