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197 × 120 × 14 mm
144 pages
49 illustrations, 40 in colour
01 May 2011
  • £11.99

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Lobster A Global History Elisabeth Townsend

From pauper’s food to cultural icon, this book tells the story of our relationship with the lobster, from coastal hunter-gatherers through the Industrial Revolution to modern times. As lobsters became a status symbol for the rich, they became the subjects of both artists and writers. The lobster has been depicted in Egyptian temples and Pompeiian feasts; Dutch still lifes and Japanese woodcuts; Lewis Carroll’s Alices Adventures in Wonderland and Salvador Dalí’s Lobster Telephone. And the social history of its consumption takes us from the Stone Age, through the early European settlers in New England and Australia, to today’s Japanese live lobster sashimi.

The lobster has been transformed from a peasant food into a luxurious delicacy that reflects our changing ideas about diet and human consumption. Today’s consumer is concerned about the ethics of eating lobster, and controversy rages about methods of killing them. Though scientists continue to debate whether lobsters can feel pain, concerns about cruelty have led to the invention of new machines that are intended to kill them humanely. There are also efforts to farm lobsters, to re-stock the seas with juveniles and to fish them sustainably.

Lobster will appeal to anyone who loves this fascinating crustacean, or who has chased a lobster across a kitchen floor.

‘Elisabeth Townsend considers the creature that inspired mosaic artists in ancient Pompeii, reclined like a cardinal in still life paintings, gave Salvador Dalí a telephone handle, fed the indigent poor and later the spoiled rich and became a partial success in shellfish farming . . . Reading its 128 pages inclusive of recipes will leave almost anyone considerably more clued up about lobsters than they were before.’ — Fay Maschler, The Spectator

‘Elisabeth Townsends concise but rich Lobster: A Global History offers a journey through lobsters prehistoric and recorded history, exploring scientific, environmental and culinary matters . . . She also does an outstanding job of documenting and explaining the modern controversy over the treatment of lobster.’ — Jasper White, Wall Street Journal

‘a frothy confection of lobster history, lore, and art, with an emphasis on cooking and consuming the crustaceans. There are plenty of entertaining moments . . . You could certainly pick up a tidbit or two from this jam-packed little book to enliven your next lobster dinner conversation.’ — Gastronomica

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Elisabeth Townsend writes about food, travel and wine for The Boston Globe, Gastronomica, the Quarterly Review of Wines and other newspapers and magazines. She is based in Concord, Massachusetts.

Introduction: What is a Lobster?

1. From Fertilizer to the Dinner Table
2. From Main Course to Mass Market
3. Lobster Takes Centre Stage
4. Lobster Controversies
5. Killing and Cooking (Humanely)
6. The Future of Lobsters

Select Bibliography
Websites and Associations
Photo Acknowledgements