snopes.com  

Go Back   snopes.com > Urban Legends > Food

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 06 August 2010, 08:06 PM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 108,507
Icon23 Lobsters as prison food

Comment: I recently read an article that prisoners in the 1800's,in the US, were
fed lobster before it became popular to eat. I told my husband and he
would like to see where it is written, but I can't remember where I saw
it.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 06 August 2010, 08:11 PM
dfresh dfresh is offline
 
Join Date: 11 November 2005
Location: Oxford, PA
Posts: 2,818
Default

This website says that it is true, which is from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

As an aside, my great-grandmother talked about getting truckloads of lobster to use as fertilizer on her garden, up in Maine.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 06 August 2010, 09:18 PM
Eddylizard's Avatar
Eddylizard Eddylizard is offline
 
Join Date: 15 June 2006
Location: Tonbridge, Kent, UK
Posts: 17,861
Default

I've heard it claimed that at least in this part of the world oysters which are now an expensive delicacy were at one time considered a cheap food only eaten by poor people. I've no idea if it is true, but if so then it would perhaps make sense for lobsters if they were then prevalent in the era and the location the commenter refers to.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 06 August 2010, 09:32 PM
Beejtronic's Avatar
Beejtronic Beejtronic is offline
 
Join Date: 28 November 2007
Location: Halifax, NS
Posts: 2,200
Default

We took a short holiday in New Brunswick/ PEI a few weeks ago, and were told the same thing by our tour guide.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 06 August 2010, 09:47 PM
Johnny Slick's Avatar
Johnny Slick Johnny Slick is offline
 
Join Date: 13 February 2003
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 11,628
Default

I imagine that there were at one time parts of France where truffles were eaten by commoners on a regular basis. Heck, an English king died from gorging himself on lampreys, which are these disgusting eel-like parasites that hook onto the bodies of fish. I can't even imagine wanting to eat a lamprey but apparently they were meatier tasting than your average fish and therefore desireable during Lent. Oh yeah, and at the beginning of last century, wasn't chicken considered something like a delicacy in some parts of the world? Often scarcity moreso than taste determines whether or not a food is desireable (and one should add that lobster has the additional pitfall that if you don't boil those suckers alive the meat tastes off*).

*Or so I am told.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 06 August 2010, 10:01 PM
Astra's Avatar
Astra Astra is offline
 
Join Date: 29 September 2001
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Posts: 8,230
Default

I heard the same thing during a tour of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 06 August 2010, 11:46 PM
Keket's Avatar
Keket Keket is offline
 
Join Date: 11 January 2007
Location: Charlottetown, PE
Posts: 1,479
Canada

South Shore Nova Scotia is a lobster mecca, and it's often told around here. Lobsters were bottom-feeding scavengers, and were only for people that couldn't afford fish.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 14 September 2012, 04:45 AM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 108,507
Blow Your Top

Comment: I've heard a legend about lobster and the 17th century settlers
of the Americas. According to the story, Lobsters were enormous beasts
sometimes up to six feet long and were considered trash food fit only for
prisoners and the poor. Any truth to this?
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 14 September 2012, 11:36 AM
Thebobo's Avatar
Thebobo Thebobo is offline
 
Join Date: 10 April 2003
Location: Scranton, PA
Posts: 3,644
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
Comment: I've heard a legend about lobster and the 17th century settlers
of the Americas. According to the story, Lobsters were enormous beasts
sometimes up to six feet long and were considered trash food fit only for
prisoners and the poor. Any truth to this?
Stephen King's The Dark Tower:The Drawing of the Three came to mind when I read that statement.

I read,in a seafood cookbook IIRC,that lobster was fed to the prisoners in Maine all the time. Because of its abundance this was their only food source and thus caused them to eventually riot. The prison relented and began to give them other varieties as well.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 14 September 2012, 02:01 PM
A Turtle Named Mack's Avatar
A Turtle Named Mack A Turtle Named Mack is offline
 
Join Date: 21 June 2007
Location: Marietta, GA
Posts: 17,690
Default

I was researching a Murillo painting of an orphan boy on the streets of a city, Seville I think, where he is shown sitting sadly, but clearly not too hungry, as he has a few pieces of fruit and some shrimp around him which he was ignoring. I had taken this to be a way of showing that while the charities might have provided enough sustenance, the emotional and educational needs of the poorest among them were being ignored. That may still be the intent, or it may be the equivalent of sad-puppies-with-big-eyes, but what I learned was that shrimp was considered a poor person's food, cheap and so eaten only be the poorest. Fruit, however, was and is a symbol of plenty.

Of course many foods start out as peasant foods, like French fish-head-soup, that becomes stylish when the adventurous middle and upper classes go looking for 'authentic' cuisines, as happened with Chinese food in the US about a hundred or so years ago.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 14 September 2012, 02:34 PM
overyonder overyonder is offline
 
Join Date: 03 March 2010
Location: Charlotte, NC
Posts: 1,305
Default

I think it mostly boils down (ah!) to whether the food is abundant or now.

In a way, it reminds me how pineapples are seen in the South.. Having pineapple decor by your house often means a sign of prosperity.

OY
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 14 September 2012, 02:52 PM
Lainie's Avatar
Lainie Lainie is offline
 
Join Date: 29 August 2005
Location: Suburban Columbus, OH
Posts: 66,810
Icon105

It's a symbol of hospitality. That's why it's often seen carved into furniture, doorways, gateways.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 14 September 2012, 03:22 PM
A Turtle Named Mack's Avatar
A Turtle Named Mack A Turtle Named Mack is offline
 
Join Date: 21 June 2007
Location: Marietta, GA
Posts: 17,690
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by overyonder View Post
I think it mostly boils down (ah!) to whether the food is abundant or now.
I saw that and thought it was not a typo of 'not', and that you were saying the big factors were abundance and whether something was au courant. Now I am not so sure, as it works either way
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 14 September 2012, 03:31 PM
Avril's Avatar
Avril Avril is offline
 
Join Date: 07 August 2002
Location: Princeton, NJ
Posts: 9,506
Default

Pigeons are abundant and used to be eaten in quantity, but today are very pricey, if you can even find them available for purchase. But they're still all over the place anyway (the live ones, I mean).
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 14 September 2012, 03:33 PM
overyonder overyonder is offline
 
Join Date: 03 March 2010
Location: Charlotte, NC
Posts: 1,305
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Turtle Named Mack View Post
I saw that and thought it was not a typo of 'not', and that you were saying the big factors were abundance and whether something was au courant. Now I am not so sure, as it works either way
indeed a typo.

OY
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 14 September 2012, 03:34 PM
overyonder overyonder is offline
 
Join Date: 03 March 2010
Location: Charlotte, NC
Posts: 1,305
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
It's a symbol of hospitality. That's why it's often seen carved into furniture, doorways, gateways.
AND prosperity:

Quote:
As a rare, expensive delicacy coveted by the rich and the royal, the image of the pineapple found its way into 18th century European and American architecture especially the seaports that prospered on the West Indian trade route.
OY
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 17 September 2012, 05:26 AM
Don Enrico's Avatar
Don Enrico Don Enrico is offline
 
Join Date: 05 October 2004
Location: Hamburg, Germany
Posts: 6,404
Default

One of the earliest collective agreement in Germany is said to be one negotiated by the house servants in Hamburg. It ruled, among others, that the servants must not be given salmon as food more than three times a week.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 17 September 2012, 12:06 PM
Thebobo's Avatar
Thebobo Thebobo is offline
 
Join Date: 10 April 2003
Location: Scranton, PA
Posts: 3,644
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by overyonder View Post
I think it mostly boils down (ah!) to whether the food is abundant or now.

In a way, it reminds me how pineapples are seen in the South.. Having pineapple decor by your house often means a sign of prosperity.

OY
I went to a crystal glass museum in my area last year and one of the things the tour guide showed was this nice ornate vase from the late 19th century. He said it was used to hold celery. Celery was affordable to the affluent and they would adorn their dining room tables with it to show their prosperity.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 17 September 2012, 03:46 PM
Kallah's Avatar
Kallah Kallah is online now
 
Join Date: 19 July 2004
Location: Eau Claire, WI
Posts: 2,393
Default

I've often wondered how someone even figured out how to eat lobster. I assume there was some poor sap out fishing, minding his own, who pulled in his net and saw this horrifying thing looking back at him:



Claws snapping. Huge feelers waving around. Finned tail lashing. Big, buggy eyes looking right into that fisherman's soul. If I were him I'd fling the thing right back into the ocean and run my butt right back to my church* and beg forgiveness from the pastor* for whatever I did to deserve the devil spawn that appeared in my nets that day. Who the heck would stop, look at that thing, and go "You know, I'm going to eat that"?

*Insert your imaginary fisher's religion here.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Mini Lobsters Jenn Fauxtography 9 22 August 2009 05:40 PM
Woody Allen Sics Lobsters on Madoff snopes Snopes Spotting 0 30 March 2009 06:43 AM
Saltpeter in prison food snopes NFBSK 8 08 December 2008 12:56 AM
Bob Barker, prison magnate snopes Business 0 11 June 2008 09:34 PM
Prison Thriller lazerus the duck Fauxtography 20 01 August 2007 07:47 PM


All times are GMT. The time now is 09:15 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.