A very common lobster

The European lobster, also known as the common lobster, has always been a king of foods in Britain. Elsewhere however he has much been sneered at.

Originally in the States lobster was so reviled as a food it was used only for fertiliser and fish bait. Later, the lobster was catapulted to stardom in menu America due to its wide availability as a canned food deemed only fit for slaves, servants and society’s lower classes.

Very common lobster

Servants even specified in employment contracts that they would not be forced to eat lobster more than twice in any given week and, much to the displeasure of prisoners, canned lobster was a staple diet for inmates in America’s penal system.

America’s more cosmopolitan east coasters of New York and Boston gradually adopted the lobster and it rose in popularity and value from the mid 1800s onwards. He has, ever since, been on a rocket to universal stardom.

However, the lobster in America still holds an extraordinarily inverse market position where, ironically, new-shell lobsters with delicate sweet meat are cheaper than tougher and more course flavour old-shell lobsters. Whoever suggested Yanks don’t do irony?

New shell lobster

The new-shell lobsters have recently moulted and are new in their delicate paper-thin shells. They also have less meat inside them, as this young lobster has not yet grown into its skin. They are so delicate they do not travel well and only command a smaller and more local market from the harbour towns where they are brought ashore. They are delicious.

Old shell lobster

Older, or hard-shell, lobsters better survive the journey inland to Boston and New York because their shells are firmer. They travel well in their battle hardened and aged armour, stacked high and often air freighted to other countries. Here they can be sold for more because, in true American style, bigger is of course better. But the meat has a courser taste, is not as tender and not as sweet. Economics dictate they can be sold for a greater sum.

 

Shabby shack chic

The adage to only eat fish if you can see the sea could never be more apt. They say the best place to eat lobster in the states is in a Maine fishing shack. The shabbier shack the better.

At Octane we like to eat ocean-fresh* lobster from the very shore it is caught, on the day it is caught.

* the term fresh is of course relative. On the high-street, at supermarkets and in city restaurants fresh fish means days old so, when patiently waiting for your number to be called at the fish-counter, be ready to ask where your fish is from and how many days ago your fish was likely caught. Supermarkets invent terms to suit their needs and, as a discerning consumer, it really is your right to challenge nonsense. At Octane we have therefore been forced to make a new, differentiated and entirely transparent definition – Ocean-fresh. Simply put, it means caught same-day.

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