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Lobster: A Global History (Reaktion Books - Edible) Hardcover – April 1, 2011

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Product Details

  • Series: Reaktion Books - Edible
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Reaktion Books (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861897944
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861897947
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,018,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“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

(Wall Street Journal )

“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.”
(Toronto Star )

“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

(Winterthur Portfolio )

“A frothy confection of lobster history, lore, and art, with an emphasis on cooking and consuming the crustaceans. There are plenty of entertaining moments.”
(Gastronomica )

“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 Spectator )

About the Author

Elisabeth Townsend lives in Concord, Massachusetts, and writes regularly on food and travel for publications such as the Boston Globe and Gastronomica.

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bill Robinson on September 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
"Now the various species of whales need some sort of popular comprehensive classification," Herman Melville wrote in "Cetology", Chapter 32 of Moby Dick. Melville wanted his readers to appreciate the wonder and diversity of these marine mammals---from sperm whale to right whale, from fin-back to razor-back. His intent was to inspire awe and respect. "But it is a ponderous task, no ordinary letter-sorter in the Post-office is equal to it," Melville writes. You must "grope down into the bottom of the sea after them."

No Great Whites are evident in Elisabeth Townsend's Lobster: A Global History, though she does introduce Fiona, "a rare polka-dotted lobster...found near Rockport, Maine in 2004." Also cited are incidents of 45-pound, large-clawed monsters captured in the 1930`s off the Atlantic coast. (None are reported to have sunk ships.) Townsend's entertaining book is filled with facts, history, anecdote, and lively lobster lore. Great recipes are included, but this is not simply a "food book." It falls squarely and successfully in the newly-emerging "Cultural history - foodways" category. The reader becomes a lobster expert, learning about these fascinating creatures in all their numerous incantations. Also communicated is a clear sense of how politics, economics, geography, and ecology intersect at the dinner table.

Melville was pessimistic concerning his whale classification project. He saw it as overwhelming, a never-ending task. Lobsters, like whales, are complicated and mysterious creatures. (This is the nature of Nature and probably Melville's point.) However, Townsend has gone down deep groping after these curious crustaceans. And, she brings them back alive.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tallpine on April 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Elisabeth Townsend's definitive book on the global history of lobsters calls to mind the question, "who was the first human to dare to eat this large insect-like phenomenon?!" She comes close to answering this, tracing the history of consumption of all types of lobsters throughout the world. Don't be surprised when you learn that evidence of lobsters - their shells - goes back as far as 250 million years!

The book is replete with fascinating anecdotes and factoids. Who wouldn't be amazed at Diamond Jim Brady's appetite for lobsters? Townsend's description of his eating habits brings alive the excesses of our very own American Gilded Age. You also meet the lobstermen "down Maine" who remind us what a precious resource these crustaceans are. And you learn why some lobsters are clawed and others are not.

The author has included a awesome range of fabulous illustrations that emphasize the ubiquitous and timeless nature of these ancient creatures. Her excellent index reflects the long worldwide history of the lobster. There is no doubt you will enjoy the wonderful section on recipes for lobster; don't miss Lobster Tail Souffle in the Shell (from South Africa).

Townsend is an author who cares deeply about the sustainability of flora and fauna, and she reminds us that the future of lobsters lies directly in our hands. Citing a variety of information, she provides us with tools that we can use to ensure these strange and succulent denizens of the deep remain with us. The first step is to read and savor this delightful publication.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne C. Lowe on April 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Townsend's new book offers a substantive behind-the-scenes-look at this mysterious creature. I never knew that lobsters could be colored blue! Or 5 feet long! I thought Townsend's explanation about the history of this food was fascinating. And she is thorough too, citing a 1393 book containing guidelines for making lobster stew, and an 1852 menu from Charles Dickens's wife!

Townsend also wades into delicate subjects, such as whether lobsters feel pain when being cooked, and covers perspectives on how to treat lobsters humanely as they make their journey from the ocean to our tables.

And this book is fun to read: you'll find discussion-worthy points, such as Townsend's description of a two-story lobster shucking machine, called The Big Mother Shucker. And she avoids guilt tripping the reader as she addresses issues about lobster sustainability.

The book concludes with numerous easy (and different) recipes for cooking and serving lobsters.

All in all, a very satisfying read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By BLD on April 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is the latest in a series that is dedicated to the history of food and drink. The author, Elisabeth Townsend, is a lively writer who takes on everything you can imagine about these fascinating creatures: how lobster evolved from a resource so over-abundant it was actually disdained; to its current status as an icon of good eating; to controversies around whether lobsters feel pain in a pot of boiling water.

On this last point, Townsend makes an observation I'd never thought of: that lobster is practically the last food that we non-hunting types routinely kill ourselves and then eat. When was the last time a food book made you stop and really think about yourself and your world?

The book is lavishly illustrated with photographs and paintings (lobsters are a major theme in art, in turns out), and is a pleasure to read. In the back are historic recipes going back all the way to Rome; as well as a few special ones from around the world today.

It turns out lobsters have a rich global history, and this book does an elegant job bringing this into focus for general and foodie readers alike.
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