That's a very easy food to find in Nova Scotia but it is a relative luxury for R&R in the local winter trapping season. At other times of year when lobster is shipped into Lunenburg County it is is usually prohibitively expensive. Of course the exoskeleton can be used to create decorative and useful items if one does not pay much attention to the superstitions generated by pop culture. This essay is partly about some of the strange interactions between crustaceans and humans.
Lobsters in the wild can be blue but colours in the brown to green range are more common. They only turn red when cooked. Lobsters and crabs led the parade of important Nova Scotia export industries in 2015 and are expected to continue in that position in 2016. They surpassed trees at the $1.1-billion mark back then. Wood pulp used to be a prime product but fell off to $241-million in the last complete year of record. Shellfish, $187-million; petroleum products from offshore, $185-million; fresh fish, a mere $116-million; solid plastics, $108-million, and lumber, $88-million.
In Beyoncé's release "Formation," she sings, "When he f**k me good, I take his ass to Red Lobster." Some folk were highly offended but Red Lobster's CEO, Kim Lopdrup, noted that, "It's clear that has helped create some Red Lobster fans, and we are very grateful to her for that." Her outfit did resemble a lobster's carapace. We'll let you guess at some of the remaining pop culture references. The discovery that cooked live lobster meat tasted better than dead meat made lobster palatable. Beyoncé made it sexy in 2016.
In a particular neighborhood, one male establishes himself as the local ogre, the dominant alpha male. Once his status is secured, he enforces it. The problem is, the alpha male is so belligerent, he's not really interested in romance. When lobsters fight and when they flirt—in both cases they communicate with each other basically by pissing in each other's faces. They have urine-release nozzles under their eyes, and they squirt urine at each other.A willing female tried to catch the male unawares in order to reduce his aggression. He becomes docile. This is followed by ritual dancing and mating.
At first, lobsters were so plentiful they were gathered by hand along the shoreline. In the late 1700s, special boats known as smacks, which featured tanks with holes that allowed seawater to circulate, were introduced in Maine for the transport of live lobsters. The workers who operated these shellfish-friendly vessels were known as smackmen. It was not until the mid-19th century that lobster trapping, also first practiced in Maine, became a more popular way to collect the sea creatures. Because they were so copious, lobsters were routinely fed to prisoners, apprentices, slaves and children during the colonial era and beyond. In Massachusetts, some servants sought to avoid lobster-heavy diets by contracting that they would only be served the shellfish twice a week.
Even in the mid twentieth century, my mother's folk, the Guptills of Grand Manan Island clearly favoured meat products imported at high prices from the mainland. Some of them travelled far off shore in pursuit of cod, while others pursued the inshore herring fishery using weirs.
The first lobster pound, for holding live lobsters, was established in Vinalhaven, Maine, in 1876.
Godey's Lady's Book 1860
A gill is a unit of measurement equal to a half cup or around 8-12 oz.
One large lobster, two dessert spoonfuls of mixed mustard, one gill and a half of vinegar, one gill and a half of sweet oil, the yolks of
five hardboiled eggs, salt to taste, the inside leaves of
two cabbage lettuces.
Cut the meat and lettuce in small pieces, boil the eggs hard, and mash yolks with a wooden or silver spoon with oil enough to make them a smooth paste. Add the vinegar, mustard, pepper and salt to taste. Mix this dressing thoroughly with the lobster and lettuce and serve it before the salad becomes flabby.
Restaurants first started to serve lobster in the 1850s and ’60s in the salad section, like bread and butter pickles or cottage cheese.
Lobster began to shed some of its negative reputation and gain a following among discriminating diners, particularly in Boston and New York City, during the 1880s. Prices immediately began to rise. Two technological development, canned food and railway transportation meant that people living in the centre of North America could now buy cheap canned lobster, which became popular because of mass production and low cost. They could also afford reasonably-priced train tickets and take trips out to coastal locations where they sampled fresh lobster.
Lobsters were huge back then. Factories considered four- or five-pound lobsters too small to can, but they were soon forced to work with smaller lobsters. Fresh lobsters were sampled by tourists travelling on trains. Passengers, who didn’t know lobster was considered trash food at the coast, started to love it and began to ask for it even after they left the train. Chefs soon discovered that lobster was a lot better, and looked a lot more appetizing, if it was cooked live than rather than killed first and cooked later.
Greg Elwell in the Oklahoma Gazette: “Lobster is fancy. If you imagine a lobster talking, it probably has a British accent. Draw an animated lobster and I bet you’ll include a top hat, a monocle, and an opera cape.” Daniel Luzer has noted, "It wasn’t always like this. If today’s lobster wears a top hat and an opera cape, 80 years ago he was wearing overalls and picking up your garbage. Lobster is a self-made creature, and quite the social climber."
Because it was preferred by wealthy folk, Americans started to like lobster, even when it was a cheap salad bar offering, and so demanded more of it. Lobster prices hit their first peak in the 1920s, when the going rate was about the same as as it averages today. With the Depression, the luxury lobster market took a dive. No one could afford the dish in restaurants, so the lobster was again largely canned to provide a cheap source of protein for American military troops in World War II.
In that war, lobster wasn’t rationed like other foods, and people of all classes began to eat it and discover its iconic taste. By the 1950s lobster was firmly established as a delicacy; something movie stars ate when they dined in public. Girls from new-rich families ordered it up for their weddings, and even the Rockefellers served lobster at their parties.
Foster Wallace wrote, “Lobster is posh, a delicacy, only a step or two down from caviar.” Of course some people are allergic to this seafood and some still think of it as "the cockroach of the ocean." "Orthodox Jews still don’t eat it because it’s supposedly unclean. But the rest of America has overcome these original feelings of revulsion, largely thanks to a few rich people’s love for the item and the thrifty ways of early train chefs."
Trapped lobsters are graded as new-shell, hard-shell, or old-shell. Lobsters which have recently shed their shells, or moulted, are delicate. These lobsters have paper-thin shells and a low meat-to-shell ratio, but the meat is very sweet. However, they are prone to die in transport, they are only sold locally in the fishing towns where they are offloaded.
Hard-shell lobsters with firm shells, but with less sweet meat, can survive shipping to Boston, New York, and even Los Angeles, so they command a higher price than new-shell lobsters. They also sell better than old-shell lobsters, which have not shed since the previous season and have a coarser flavour. One seafood guide notes that an $8 lobster dinner st the coast is "consistently delicious," while "the eighty-dollar lobster in a three-star Paris restaurant is apt to be as much about presentation as flavour".
New Englanders first canned seafood in Eastport Maine in 1843. It was also New Englanders who were the first successful exploiters of Pictou County lobster. The Boston company, Shedd & Knox built a lobster factory at the East end of Pictou Island in the 1870s. Others soon followed their innovation. Two fishermen would row out in dories or in sailboats to set about 200 traps. They go out out before dawn and come back to the wharf between 10 and noon. Before the turn of the century the fishermen owned their traps and boats and the rest of their equipment as well, but in later years they rented from the canneries that hired them.
Before commercial factories became commonplace, lobster was processed in fishermen’s homes. The men would bring their catch back to their houses where their wives would help boil them in large pots on the stove. The meat was then removed from the "shells" extracted and packed in cans fitted with covers and sealed with a band of solder. Holes were made in the cans so excess brine would be forced out and the can was finally sealed. The cans contained one pound of lobster meat and were packed in cases of forty-eight.
There was a great deal of spoilage. This crude and wasteful means of processing lobster in was superseded by more sanitary and efficient ways of handling the meat. The number of canneries in Canada rose from 44 in 1872 to 900 by 1900 and continued to increase through the early part of the century. Men at the factories boiled the lobster, breaking it apart and in later years, when shipping live came into vogue, were in charge of the live tanks and floating docks. These first small commercial factories packed an average 144, 000 lbs of product during a season. Women who worked on the canning lines made more money than was possible in the old home work situation.
In the late 1920s fishermen started using motors in their boats. These motors had starters and could idle. Fishermen were now able to fish farther from shore, set more traps and therefore make more money. However, even though they had better equipment and were being paid a better price per pound, their costs to maintain equipment was higher, and the number of people fishing was greater. Boats changed in style, size, strength and speed. Fishermen relied less on landmarks to mark their positions, muscle power to haul their traps and self-made gadgets to measure the depth of the water. By the 1970’s technology had made the job faster, the day shorter and the work easier. Perhaps coincidentally, the lobster stock off Nova Scotia increased.
The biggest change that occurred in the lobster market was the development of a demand for live lobster. Shipping live became the norm and different varieties of fresh, frozen lobster meat became available on the market. Lobster was openly advertised and no longer filler for a poor schoolboy's luncheon sandwich.
Signs see in Lunenburg, N.S. Quality controlled plants with more efficient handling, packing and shipping methods developed. High-tech machinery and advanced holding systems, allowed for better products to be developed and marketed. Some examples of specialty products developed include, fresh and frozen lobster tails, vacuum packed whole lobster, fresh and frozen meat in cans, as well as lobster tomalley and roe.
It was gradual changes such as these, which have lead to the development of the industry we have today and live lobster tanks in almost every restaurant.
Before traps were used, lobsters were fished from shallow waters by spearing or gaffing. Fishermen hunted for lobsters by torch light on calm evenings, spearing them as they crawled around in search of food. Although there was not a commercial market for lobster at this time, some fishermen did sell their catch, which was worth more if it bore no spear marks. Hoop net traps like that seen above solved the problem. At first he rims were made of cast off cart-wheels with netting was stretched over them.
These traps were good for catching "canners" in shallow water. These are small lobsters weighing between ½ and 1lb. Fishermen were paid per by the number offered for sale rather than by weight. The first wooden lath trap is said to have originated in Cape Cod in 1810. This trap is still quite common and consists of two main sections, the kitchen and the parlor. A lobster first enters the trap through funnel shaped structures called or funnels. The lobster wanders into the kitchen where the bait is tied. When a lobster tries to escape from the kitchen he finds egress into the parlor. Small vents in there allow undersized lobsters to escape, but larger lobsters are stuck awaiting their fate. Made in Sussex by Bronson, this concrete creation is found on Prince Edward Island.
Lobster traps today are made of metal or a combination of wood and metal and are manufactured in a factory. These are larger traps often set far off shore.The processing factories are history. Only small amounts of lobster are still being tinned; the majority of sales involve merchandising and shipping live lobster (mostly by airfreight) worldwide. Above, Lobster Fisherman's Wharf, Lunenburg town.
The Cape Islander styled fishing boat is a mainstay of the Nova Scotian fleet. It originated on Cape Sable Island early in the last century and usually has a step up to the bow . The design is credited to Ephraim Atkinson of Clark's Harbour,whose family have continued building the world-renowned and recognized pleasure and commercial boats to this day. It is an inshore motor fishing boat found across Atlantic Canada having a single keeled flat bottom at the stern which more rounded towards the bow. This broad configuration allows it to ride ocean swells well.
"Lobster is Canada’s most valuable seafood export and an iconic Canadian species exported around the world. Canadian lobster landings remain at one of the highest levels recorded in 100 years, with an upward trend over recent decades." - Fisheries & Oceans Canada. When the boom commenced back in the 1970s management plans were developed and fishing areas established. As indicated seasons were staggered and catch limits were instated.
"The current total allowable catch for this fishery is 720 tonnes and has remained unchanged since 1989."
Of course the areas where lobster are found are broader than Atlantic Canada as the above map shows.
"There are 45 lobster fisheries throughout the Atlantic Provinces and Quebec, including one for the offshore fishery and one closed for conservation. Conservation Measures: These are tailored to meet the unique needs of each lobster fishery. Commonly used measures include limits to the number of licences, trap limits, length of fishing seasons, number of fishing days, total allowable catch quotas (in the offshore lobster fishing area), lobster size restrictions, and more." Note that the richest lobster region on the shelf has progressively moved north eastward into the Gulf of Maine and waters off south western Nova Scotia.
The situation has changed since this map was published sixteen years ago, but the preponderance of lobster fishing and processing effort in regions along the shore between Annapolis and Halifax Counties remains the same.
Shelburne is decidedly the lobster landing capital as they claim, but Lunenburg takes the crown for value added processing. Districts 33 and 34 are the most productive. "Lobster is Canada’s most valuable seafood export and an iconic Canadian species exported around the world. Canadian lobster landings remain at one of the highest levels recorded in 100 years, with an upward trend over recent decades. The majority (78%) of Canadian lobster exports are destined for the United States. Other key markets include Asia (Japan and China) and the European Union (Belgium, France). Lobster is also exported to an additional 50 countries."
Seen above the traditional Cape Islanders characteristic of many small ports along the shore between Halifax and Barrington Passage/Cape Sable, where the big boys dock.
This is the way traps used to be dumped and retrieved. Now they are roped together to make for faster easier mechanical hauling. That's Rod's Captain Highliner cap.
Prior to that lobster was shipped into Lunenburg County during the warm season. Total "annual lobster landings in 2013 were 74,686 tonnes. In 2012 lobster landings were 74,790 tonnes. In 2011, lobster landings were 66,500 tonnes." That trend continues.
We are now talking about District 33 and 34 effort. This is a relatively small local boat preparing for the winter trap season.
There's no life like it, but there have been heart attacks, sinkings and other mishaps at sea.
Lobster boats down shore to the south west are sometimes quite massive and imposing.
As you can see Atlantic fishermen are a multitasking lot. Of course this photo was not taken during the "Season To Be Jolly." It was also out of season for lobsters from those waters.
Firmer fleshed lobsters, more meat per pound of weight. Only $6.99 retail.
When one gets away from the Salt the price doubles, making it problematic for some restaurants in Canada which do not have the advantage of owning American dollars.
Everybody's selling with prices better this year!
Lobster fishermen do enjoy winter in the south west.
The home of Giant Pumpkins and Giant Lobsters.
Some are simply unusual, and they do come in all those colours. Glass Christmas ornaments.
Speaking of Christmas. Waste not, want not! Look for the lobster claw and tail.
Lobsters don't hold up well after cooking.
Less believable? Only in England! Pity?
A Chinese chef came up with this automotive creation using recycled lobster parts.
Local Christmas ornament.
Locally, not an unreasonable indulgence in deep mid-winter.
It's buoy, oh buoy for the local economy. Truck and boat sales are buoyant because of the international crustacean love-in.
It is, sadly impossible to please everyone.
But that stronger U.S. economy may be in trouble.
A half dozen years ago fishermen were very worried! "Have Yourself a Merry Little Lobster" did mot seem to be showing in the crystal snowball. But then in 2016...
Lobster Thermidor with so many great alternatives?
Get with it Great Britain.
Suggestions from Lunenburg County.
And abroad on the Internet.
But don't settle for less than the best, and chew your food.
A Lobster Santa Claws, Surely not?
Christmas ornaments? Nearly traditional. Here's one from WW II.
And the equivalent from 2016.
Rod's quickie version of the above design.
Is this an exoskeletal or endoskeletal Santa Claws?
Whatever, Tim Burton says, "You better watch out!"
Dr Future Art.
Strangeglove Art and Headdress Art.
Is it Art or simply crafty? Or perhaps Campy Art?
The Lobster, The Movie!
We are all mutants! There are always trumpeting gurus.
And Rod and Ruth thought they had difficult childhoods.
You have to be really with it, as we used to say...
He might actually be THE RED LOBSTER? Not a character from Rod's childhood, but from his time frame.
This begs for a song... "Lobsterman, Lobsterman etc."
Like Santa, this current century comic character liked to balance the books!
Believe it, nothing is impossible!
Bet our Lobster god-kings would like to have known him? While alive back in the Depression era he had winning ways. Killed off as a comic book hero he has since returned as an undead character with powers not clearly defined but persuasive. Actually, that Clearwater icon,,,
Speaking of claws reminds Santa Claws of this unusual magical mutation.
Some unimaginative kids know what they want, but please hold that mayo?
This child obviously had a technological bend in his make up.
One reason that the South West has a winter fishing season is the fact that air temperatures are more moderate than elsewhere where ice clogs harbours. This was the first snow of the season, lost to rain December 18.
During Victoria times this harbour sometimes iced over, but no longer. Being an old-timer Rod can point out many cases where winter harbours have become completely ice-free. So there Mr. Trump!
These days there is a lot of rain rather than snow in this region. Lunenburg Harbour is on a peninsula and features deep water while Mahone Bay is embraced by hills and has shallow water. For this reason, it freezes over at some point, and lobster boats tie up at ice-free locations seaward.
Some businesses play the lobster game. This place like the Atlantica Hotel and Marina is less than an hour distant from Mahone Bay and knows how to beat the Christmas drum.
The second most crowded province in Canada is Nova Scotia, with 20 folk per square acre. That means the coast is crowded with surprising places to stay and eat, many of them first rate. In summer a golf course operates here. "The jackalope is a mythical animal of North American folklore (a fearsome critter) described as a jackrabbit with the horns of pronghorn."
Unfortunately, this event has been swallowed by the past.
Rockport, Maine has one of the oldest Lobster Festivals (70 years), five days in August. It's a really big bash. This is their community Christmas Tree. A local says, "I personally prefer the hard shell lobster, and in my humble opinion right now is the perfect time for eating lobster. A hard shell, just before the shed, will be stuffed with meat. A soft shell, while easier to eat, will have less meat inside the shell. Some people think the soft shell has "sweeter" meat. The negative part of the hard shell lobster is the price, because there is less supply (winter and all) they tend to be more $/lb. I haven't checked lately, but someone told me that lobster is currently going for around $10/lb - too rich for my blood."
"Being a local, I rarely eat "whole" lobster in a restaurant. Very easy to cook at home, get a big pot, put about 2 inches of water in it, add a dose of salt (~1/4 cup), bring to a boil. Once boiling drop your live and kicking lobsters in head first and cover. Regardless of the number of lobsters, they are done in 20 minutes after the water starts boiling again."
All that remains then is popped into the mouth. Photo by Ruth at one of the Whispering Waves cottages, Ingomar Beach. This place is owned by Paul & Charlotte Goulden. He is a local lobster fisherman. He delivers a freshly cooked lobster dinner right to the cottage door.
For those who consider lobster in a negative light, they provide a chicken dinner. There are advantages when one lives in Nova Scotia. Again, this place is not impossibly distant and usually snow free until after Christmas.
Lobsters, like men, are territorial rapacious and pugnacious. This science fiction novel illustrator probably made his alien a bit too anthropomorphic.
I would like boiled lobster please!
Rod's parting gift from his daughter Cathy at this season last year. He is seen with the Great Lobster at Stanfield International Airport. Clearwater has a retail outlet here.
Clearwater has a massive seafood market in Bedford, essentially a suburb of Halifax. It offers a great variety of seafood: lobsters, clams, scallops, mussels, haddock, crab, oysters, shrimp, salmon. The staff are knowledgeable and provide cooking techniques and storage guidelines when asked.
Alternately, you can order on line. You will pay more but it comes to your door.
Their website makes online purchases easy and seafood is shipped immediately to your doorstep and may include custom lobster and crab utensils.
One web respondent has criticized the store: "Other than lobster it can be hit and miss with what's available. As a non-fan of shellfish, I do find their selection of "regular" seafood to be scanty at times... Prices are a bit steep, especially for things like scallops, so unless they're having a good sale we don't usually stop in. We prefer to keep driving and go to Pete's (at the head of Bedford Basin)."
Clearwater may be supplied, in part, by local independent fishermen, but it maintains its own fishing fleet of large ocean-going ships. Their corporate headquarters is within the Town of Lunenburg at 240 Montague Street.
Then there is Highliner which supplied Rod with his captain's hat for $5 and a frozen food label. They started life as National Sea Products in downtown Lunenburg but moved into the Municipality District of Lunenburg, out of town and south east across the Harbour.
Once known in the shortened form Nat Sea, the company re branded itself, cut costs, dumped its fishing fleet and made surprising inroads on the American commercial wholesale market. This renewed interest in Nova Scotia may be related to the fear that they may be Trumped in the near future.
The Highliner plant seen from Clearwaters back yard. This turnabout has to be triggered in part by the low Canadian dollar which favours any company exporting to the United States. Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada, says fishermen really have luck to thank for this season.“We're lucky we have a cheap dollar, but that’s not a way to run a business,” he says. “We should be more proactive about what we’re doing in the markets to ensure this strength continues when our own dollar strengthens.”
“Our competition is getting very aggressive, investing in marketing and promotion, we need to be too,” he says. “We have to realize that this advantage we now have is because of the exchange rate, it’s not because we’re doing anything different. Again it is just luck,” he adds. “We need to invest in things to take away the luck factor and instead become masters of our destiny.” - Kings County Advertiser.
Money does shout! What's the story?
Traditionally the inshore lobster fishery has belonged to independent owners and operators based in the community.
These folk have long fought "corporatization" of the inshore lobster fishery and it is stated in law that offshore ownership of a relinquished licence is not allowed, In November,.
The Independent Fish Harvesters Federation issued a news release this week decrying the "brazen" attempt to buy licences contained in the above advertisement. Nobody seemed to know what companies were implicated or where they were located. Nevertheless at least one snow crab fisherman, Kirby Elson of Cartwright, Newfoundland admitted to having signed a "a controlling agreement."
The agreement was made with two Newfoundland and Labrador fish processors: Quinlan Brothers Ltd. and Labrador Sea Products Inc. In a Federal Court affidavit, Elson said he could not afford to fish without the arrangement and to end it would deprive him of his livelihood of 50 years. Successive federal governments have said controlling agreements are an end run around policies designed to keep inshore fisheries in local hands.
Phillip Saunders, a professor at Dalhousie University's Shulich School of Law says that if Elson's appeal is validated,"It would have serious implications for ensuring that the benefits of inshore fisheries actually accrue to the communities adjacent to them or that traditionally fished them … rather than having it done as a purely industrial or commercial enterprise where licences can be handed around like any other commodity."
That court case is not the only sign that the good times may not roll on indefinitely but that's an even more complex tale.
Speaking of corporate takeovers...
The McLobster consists of chop macerated meat, mixed with mayo and supplemented with green onions and/or celery, drizzled of butter and thrown on a bun. Gerry Moore a franchisee in Amherst put the first one together 25 years ago. The McLobster typically comes out at the middle to end of May when cheaper meat comes available; they also beat the competition by excluding expensive tail meat.The product is available “while supplies last”, which typically means The product was launched in the US in 1993 but dropped when it failed to prove popular, It was reintroduced there in 2015. They charged $8.99 in the United States at that time. The price is over $10 Canadian inland.The company claims that "This is the same quality lobster served at white tablecloth restaurants on the East Coast." Ingredients are supposedly "hand-picked" and "of artizan quality." However, it appears that the truth actually is out there...
Food blogger Adam Callagan notes, "The limp bun holds a bizarrely large amount of lettuce, both shredded and whole-leaf, neither of which is anything more than filler. There's plenty of mayo, liberally mashed in with globs of shredded lobster meat in some awful sort of seafood salad.If you didn't see what you were eating, I don't think you'd guess, and I doubt you'd continue." CEO Steve Easterbrook noting slumping sales introduced many regional foods to its menu saying, “The company is seeking 'progress over perfection.' If we want everything to be just right, we'll never quite get there. So let's get out there and try things, let's test things. We can fail fast and spot the successes and scale fast.” The Canadian argula files reviewer tried one. "It had real lobster meat, although it was drowning in mayonnaise.
Strike 2: iceberg lettuce. Strike 3, the expiration date read 8/30 3:25 pm." That best before date was three hours distant, so he declined to eat. "Despite three noted strikes, my friend Denise took a HUGE bite in anticipation of lobster deliciousness. 'Oh dear. Revolting'."
“Best Lobster Roll - Anywhere!”Ok, maybe not anywhere, but I've eaten lots Lobster rolls and sandwiches all over Nova Scotia and Maine and this one is the best ever for me. Loaded with lobster meat, the tarragon mayo and a brioche bun seal the deal for me. You won't be disappointed. (We eat here alot, and I have yet to have anything that I haven't liked from their menu). Service is always warm and friendly." - on line review. $18.50