In New England, lobstah is practically a food group, but especially in Maine where the governor has proclaimed October as “Maine Lobster Month.”
Lobsters are saltwater creatures with five pairs of legs including two large fore claws and a curling tail. Its land counterpart is the scorpion. The word lobster derives from the English loppestre and Latin locusta.
Lobsters were once poverty food
Lobsters were so plentiful years ago that they would wash up on shore forming piles up to two feet high. Native Americans used them as fertilizer in their fields and to bait fishing hooks. In the 1700s, lobsters were harvested from tidal pools and only the poorest ate them all the time, including children, prisoners, and indentured servants. In Massachusetts, some servants rebelled and had their contracts reworded so that they would not be forced to eat lobster more than three times a week.
Lobsters are the “cockroach of the sea” This refers to their behavior as indiscriminate scavengers that clean up dead and dying plants and animals in their environment; lobstermen even call their catch “bugs.”
Lobsters are like bugs A lobster’s nervous system is like a grasshopper’s. Both are from the arthropod phylum. An arthropod is an invertebrate animal with an external skeleton (exoskeleton), segmented body, and jointed appendages.
Lobsters do not feel pain A lobster does not have a brain. A 2005 Norwegian study determined that a lobster does not have the mental capacity to process pain or to know it is feeling pain. Good news for lobster lovers as boiling lobsters alive is the preferred method of cooking.
Lobsters do not scream Lobsters do not have vocal chords or any means of vocalization. When plunged in boiling water, any sound heard is air escaping from their shells, which can produce a high-pitched whistle.
Lobsters do not suffer in silence Lobsters have primitive nervous systems and no brain. (A 2005 study financed by the Norwegian government reinforced this view.)
Lobsters all turn red when boiled When cooked, all lobsters turn red, even if their original color was mottled dark blue, yellow, orange, or purple.
Driving along Maine roads, we’ve seen numerous places called a “lobster pound.” Many of these have large outdoor cooking areas like the ones shown below.
Do you order lobsters by the pound here? A lobster pound is the holding area for lobsters. The term used to refer to the tank that was built inside a shack on a deep tidal creek or harbor through which sea water was piped to nourish the lobsters. The first lobster pound, modeled after those on lobster boats (or smacks) was built in 1875.
A lobster pound can also be a large lobster holding area created by wharves and netting. The tide cleans and refreshes the holding area.
In restaurants and grocery stores, the term usually refers to where the lobsters are stored in large aquarium tanks of salt water.
The Maine Lobster Council has a website devoted to all things lobster including lobster history, buying and cooking tips, recipes, and restaurant recommendations.