Potluck: Lobster or chicken in every pot?

Red Jacket Brand lobster came from Burnham and Morrill of Portland, Maine.

A trademark label for canned “deep sea lobster” was submitted to the Maine secretary of state in 1891. / Photo courtesy of Maine State Archives

Lobster ranks as an extravagance, unless you’re lucky enough to visit a seafood shack along Maine’s rocky shore. But the crustacean once was so plentiful and cheap in America that it was called “the cockroach of the ocean,” Daniel Luzer writes in Pacific Standard’s “How Lobster Got Fancy.” In colonial Massachusetts, lobster reportedly washed up in piles 2 feet deep. Colonists considered it trash food, suitable only for the poor, the imprisoned or for pets. But in the 1800s, shrewd railroad managers recast the inexpensive item as a delicacy, serving it to inland diners unfamiliar with its reputation. Its taste caught on, and so did demand. Today, it still adds glamour to the table. Lobster mac ’n cheese, anyone? 

Also in the Northeast, some lawmakers are pushing for labeling of genetically modified food. As Grub Street observes, “there’s a good chance New England will change the way the U.S. perceives transgenic foods.” Connecticut last week vowed to require GMO labeling, and Maine’s House this week voted for the same. An amendment “requires that five contiguous states, including Maine, pass similar laws” before such legislation would take effect, the Associated Press reports.

In many American homes, chicken is a Sunday dinner staple. In Arkansauce: The Journal of Arkansas Foodways, Marcia Camp’s “Chicken Every Sunday” describes its association with church and her almost-religious devotion to the bird. “As a young girl, I believed that high-noon hunger had the power to save souls. It was partly the effects of the preacher’s tears shed into a handkerchief the size of a linen napkin … but mostly it was the desire for release to get home to fried chicken.” Amen, sister.   

potluck-butterbeans (For a variation, you might dish up chicken pudding. Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg updated an 18th century recipe.)

To round out Sunday dinner, keep your eyes peeled for fresh butter beans. They come into season for three weeks from now through August, depending on your region. As Jenny Everett notes in the current Garden & Gun: “Also known as sieva or Dixie beans, they’ve been a staple of the Southern table since the 1700s, anchoring everything from stews to succotash.”


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One Response to Potluck: Lobster or chicken in every pot?

  1. Bryce Stucki June 19, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    If only I’d known about lobster mac ‘n cheese before I became a vegetarian last week.