1852 Sunday Went to meeting this morning & returned
at noon and mother came with me to make
a visit Did not go back this afternoon on
account of getting tea Mr Patterson is here
came last night Edwin & wife stoped to
tea from meeting had lobster. Read to
mother in [entry incomplete]
The Sabbath was another “fair day + pritty warm + verry dry.”* Old Oliver had to be getting edgy about the prospects for this year’s hay crop, not to mention the potentially poor output from the cornfields and the crop gardens all around town.
The family all trooped to church for the morning service, but Evelina, bringing her eighty-year old mother home with her, skipped the afternoon sermon “on account of getting tea.” She had to prepare lobster for Edwin and Augusta Gilmore. We might assume that on the previous day, Oakes Ames picked up a lobster (probably quite fresh, although cooked and canned were available) in Boston on his usual Saturday visit. Lobsters were plentiful, inexpensive and, as a rule, larger than those we dine on today. He was probably familiar enough with the crustacean to buy one that was fresh.
The well-known household advisor Lydia Maria Church approved of lobsters, and offered advice on buying them:
‘A female lobster is not considered so good as a male. In the female, the sides of the head, or what look like cheeks, are much larger, and jut out more than those of the male. The end of the lobster is surrounded with what children call ‘purses,’ edged with a little fringe. If you put your hand under these to raise it, and find it springs back hard and firm, it is a sign the lobster is fresh; if they move flabbily, it is not a good omen.’
Moving flabbily could never be considered a good omen.
*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection
** Lydia Maria Church, The American Frugal Housewife