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Lobster: A Global History (Edible) Hardcover – April 1, 2011
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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!
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.