“A frothy confection of lobster history, lore, and art, with an emphasis on cooking and consuming the crustaceans. There are plenty of entertaining moments.”
Lobster (Edible)by Elisabeth Townsend
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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 Alice's 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.”
“We are quite taken with the short but engagingly readable Edibles series of handsome little books on basic, well, edibles, as in the cultural and global history of one type of food or beverage. Originating in England from Reaktion Books but written by foodie journalists or food science academics on both sides of the Atlantic, these spritely, much-illustrated books are a peruser’s delight.”
“Elisabeth Townsend’s concise but rich Lobster: A Global History offers a journey through lobster’s 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: Is boiling alive inhumane, for instance, and if so what method might be better? . . . Most of all, [this books reminds] us that our long relationship with lobsters is tied up with our relationships with one another.” —Jasper White, Wall Street Journal
“A fun, smartly written series appropriate for a popular audience that likes to eat . . . the Edible series books provide level-headed and enjoyable overviews of food culture . . . These will create a little library that any foodie will be proud to show off . . . aesthetically pleasing volumes with decent content that would make good presents.”
—Winterthur Portfolio, on the Edible series
Meet the Author
Elisabeth Townsend lives in Concord, Massachusetts, and writes regularly on food and travel for publications such as the Boston Globe and Gastronomica.
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