Many years ago I took a tour through a restored Georgian-era house in Dublin (best €2 I spent that summer). This included some pretty good explanations on the everyday life and customs in that period, along with a tidbit that stuck with me:

"Lobster was plentiful in those days, so much that one could pick it by hand by the shoreline. It was also considered food for the poor, so much so that servants at respectable households had it in their contracts that they would not be served lobster more than x times a week."

I have done some research that seems to back this up, albeit places the contract claim in the context of America rather than the Old Continent. My questions are:

Was lobster considered a poor man's food in Europe or America in the 18th and 19th centuries?

How and when did this social trend reverse?

Does the contractual limitation claim hold water?

  • 3
    Wiki on lobster has some of what you are looking for. Much of the rest may well be found in a book the article cites, Lobster: A Global History. Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 10:57
  • One has to consider the effect of Supply and Demand. My father-in-law grew up on Cape Cod, and at that time and place it was what the poor folks ate. Here in Oklahoma, steak is a lot more of an everyday food than it was when I lived elsewhere.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 14:15
  • @LarsBosteen the wiki covers only the North American perspective, and only answers part of my query. Do you feel I should restrict the question to Europe? Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 14:20
  • Yes, the wiki is lacking. As to whether you should restrict your question, I don't think it's too broad as it is but you might want to clarify if there is anything more on N.Am you want to know which is not covered by wiki. Ultimately, it's up to you of course. Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 15:32
  • In the US, until the 1950s it was considered something that you ate if you were not affluent and lived near lobster fisheries. And, at least in the Royal Navy, it was a favored dish throughout that era. Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 17:39


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