April 20, 1851

Lobster

1851

April 20  Sunday  Another severe storm it snows some

but most of the day it has rained in torrents

Not one of the family have been to church.

The children have been pretty wide awake for 

the sabbath and made not a little noise.  Harriet

& Anna were here to supper  had Lobster.

Rec d a letter from Pauline this morning.

The weather this April just wouldn’t quit.  The prospect of all the Ameses trapped indoors yet again by “another severe storm,” is dreary.  Surely Evelina missed being able to get to church. Oakes could escape to his office, at least, but Evelina was in the house with many family members. The little children coped, however. After their train trip, Frank, John and Anna Mitchell seemed delighted with the relative freedom and novelty of visiting their relatives. They romped and played, making “not a little noise.”

Lobster was served for supper, a change of pace from more usual fare of beef, bread and pie. Until very recently, lobster had been considered a dish fit only for the lower classes, a sure sign of poverty. It was so cheap that it was often served in prisons. In the novel Little Women, Amy March was embarrassed when a handsome young man bumped into her on the omnibus while she was carrying one in her basket.  Only at mid-century did the crustacean’s “vulgar size and brilliancy”* begin to appeal to the more affluent. Whether Evelina served it because it was beginning to be fashionable to do so or because it was still a very economical meal is hard to say.  Certainly, it was easy enough to obtain. Oakes probably picked it up the day before while in Boston.

The indefatigable Sarah Josepha Hale offered a recipe for stewing lobster that included the direction: “If you have no gravy, use more butter.” She also suggested that lobster could be eaten cold, “with a dressing of vinegar, mustard, sweet oil, and a little salt and cayenne. The meat of the lobster must be minced very fine; and care must be taken to eat but a little of this dish.”**

 

*Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, 1868-1869

** Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, 1841

 

 

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