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Cuizine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures / Cuizine : revue des cultures culinaires au Canada

Volume 3, numéro 1, 2011

Food, Language, and Identity / Cuisine, langue et identité

Sous la direction de Marc Charron et Renée Desjardins

Direction : Nathalie Cooke (editor in chief) et Ariel Buckley (managing editor)

Éditeur : McGill University Library

ISSN : 1918-5480 (numérique)

DOI : 10.7202/1004730ar

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Lobster Tales: Narratives of Food, Past, and Place in Maritime Canada

Diane Tye


In Canada’s Maritime Provinces, lobster is the food of tourism. Featured in countless guidebooks, cookbooks and restaurant ads, lobster beckons visitors to the region. Later, represented in as many forms as souvenirs, it signifies their trip, offering tangible proof that they have experienced–and tasted–the “real” place. However, as George Lewis (1989) argues is the case in Maine, residents of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have their own understandings. Here I explore two generalized narratives widespread in Maritime oral tradition: that lobster was used by farmers as fertilizer on fields and that its consumption once was associated with shame, signaling as it did that a family had nothing else to eat. In considering the contested meanings surrounding lobster’s recontextualization from a food of poverty to a regional delicacy, I suggest that Maritimers’ knowledge of lobster’s earlier working class associations, as well as of the “right” way to cook and eat lobster, acts not only as a marker of socio-economic difference but as an indicator of Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of distinction (1984) that is intricately linked to constructions of regional identity.


Histoires de homard : souvenirs, lieux et récits culinaires dans les Maritimes

Dans les Provinces maritimes, le homard est synonyme de tourisme culinaire. Figurant dans nombre de guides de voyage, de livres de recettes et de publicités de restaurants, le homard constitue un réel attrait pour les visiteurs dans la région. Plus tard, sous la forme de souvenirs de voyage, le homard offre une preuve tangible des lieux visités et des expériences vécues. Cependant, comme le soutient George Lewis (1989) en ce qui concerne le Maine, le homard signifie quelque chose de tout à fait spécifique pour les habitants de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard, de la Nouvelle-Écosse et du Nouveau-Brunswick. Cet article analyse deux récits largement répandus dans la tradition orale des Maritimes : le premier prétend que le homard était initialement utilisé comme engrais déversé sur les terres agricoles par les fermiers, le second clame que sa consommation était source de honte pour bien des familles, car on ne mangeait du homard que lorsqu’on n’avait rien d’autre à se mettre sous la dent. À travers l’examen des différentes significations associées au homard – perçu au départ comme aliment réservé aux pauvres avant de devenir une spécialité régionale prisée –, l’article suggère que la connaissance des habitants des Maritimes des anciennes connotations négatives du homard et de la « bonne » manière de le faire cuire et de le manger, sert non seulement de marqueur socioéconomique mais aussi d’indicateur de la notion de « distinction » chez Pierre Bourdieu (1984), qui est intrinsèquement liée ici à la construction d’une identité proprement régionale.


As a waitress during my university years in the 1970s, I often served lobster in the shell to diners at the small Nova Scotian hotel where I worked. The lobster dinner—the most expensive and elaborate meal on the menu—was a culinary rite of passage for many tourists.[1] Restaurant staff, on the other hand, secretly delighted when lobsters arrived back in the kitchen barely touched. We enjoyed the irony of tourists spending money on food they couldn’t eat, despite the printed instructions on the placemat. We knew that the lobster being sold as pricey and special was until recently considered barely edible by Maritimers themselves. Children of earlier generations were shamed when forced to bring a lobster sandwich to school; lobster was used to fertilize farmers’ fields. If you had asked how we knew these things, we would not have been able to say—we just knew. The “facts” as we understood them were not usually shared through fully developed stories but came to us as brief “generalization narratives”[2] that were part of our common knowledge.


These widespread narratives are difficult to document. Notwithstanding their parallel lives in popular publications, such stories exist mostly in oral tradition, unattached to specific details that would allow them to be substantiated. One version of the lobster narrative comes from Helen Darcy Wilson. Writing of her childhood in a Nova Scotian fishing family in the 1940s to 1950s, Wilson reinforces the popular memory of lobster as a food of shame:

I’ll never get used to the idea that lobster and crab are luxury foods, in fact that lobster costs considerably over a dollar a pound. We ate lobster because we were poor. I remember Mama put fresh boiled lobster in our school lunches and we always threw them away on our way to school. We were ashamed to let the other kids see them because then they would know that we didn’t have anything else to eat in the house.”[3]

Firsthand accounts like Wilson’s are uncommon. The people I spoke with recognized such narratives, but could not remember how they had learned them. Like many contemporary legends, these stories—regardless of their truthfulness—probably did not happen to as many people in as many places at as many times as their popularity suggests.[4] By the late 1880s, in fact, concerns about declining lobster stocks had resulted in a regulated lobster fishery with defined zones and seasons as well as catch restrictions,[5] a development which suggests that stories of lobster’s past abundance stem only from specific economic periods. In folklore study, however, veracity is less important than belief.[6] These narratives have persisted because they speak loudly of how Maritime Canadians see themselves.


Given the links between food and memory, it is not surprising that food figures so prominently in stories of identity. Writing of his work with the Kalymnians, for instance, David E. Sutton describes the “repetitive act of eating as a medium for the more enduring act of remembering,” which he equates to an articulation of identity.[7] Jonathan Safran Foer similarly asserts that food serves two purposes: “it nourishes and it helps you remember.” Reflecting on the cuisine of his own Jewish background, Foer notes that “the saltwater is also tears; the honey not only tastes sweet, but it makes us think of sweetness; the matzo is the bread of our affliction.” As a result, Foer asserts, “[e]ating and storytelling are inseparable.”[8] Across eastern Canada, the way lobster is consumed—or not consumed—tells its own story.

Lobster Business


In Maritime Canada, lobster has always been more about work than food. George Leard writes that “[i]n early Acadia and down to almost modern times lobsters were an unappreciated food that had to be eaten fresh, but if eaten in any quantity soon cloyed the appetite.”[9] Leard claims that the lack of interest in lobsters as food meant that they were allowed to grow to old age and huge sizes; as evidence, he cites an article published in the Halifax Guardian on September 26, 1885, which reports that a man caught a 4-foot lobster.[10] Leard also quotes an 1839 writer who advises those who had sickened themselves with lobster by trying to make it a dietary staple, “never to have them for dinner and not to eat them at break/fast or supper more than once a week.”[11]


One hundred years later, culinary impressions were no more favourable. In the 1940s, the comments of an Atlantic Canadian lobster buyer known as “the Lobster King” support the view of the lobster as a source of income rather than nourishment: “I don’t eat lobster myself. They’re for fancy eating places and we fishermen aren’t fancy.”[12] Indeed, lobsters were often perceived as a food of necessity rather than choice. Another 1940s article by Dorothy Richardson describes fishermen resorting to lobster as an efficient noon meal, served at what Newfoundlanders would call a “boil up”:

Sometimes lobster boats will tie together in a group and the men go aboard one of the craft to relax on the sun-warmed floorboards for a chat and a cigarette. Soon we see cosy smoke curling from the cud chimneys and we know the men are cooking a few lobsters for dinner and boiling a pot of tea.[13]

In this context, lobster is practical rather than preferred. As Richardson observes, “[t]he fishermen who have them nearly every day of the season for a hot meal in their boats say they tire of them.”[14] Maritime women responded to this fatigue by learning to prepare lobster in a number of ways. Marie Nightingale writes that, “in the days when lobsters were plentiful and cheap they were served in every possible way. Lobster Chowder was a hearty main dish; Lobster Stew, a tasty entrée; moreover, to get the last bit of goodness out of lobster, housewives boiled their shells to make a soup.”[15] Richardson herself preferred to serve lobster as chowder—or “creamed lobster,” as she called it—and indicates that this had been a traditional dish in her family for two generations. Despite these efforts, however, Maritime residents have never considered lobster as versatile as other fish.


Early travellers to Atlantic Canada marvelled at the abundance of fish, including lobster, which they saw there. Many used gaffs or rakes to extract lobster from around rocks close to shore. When American humourist Frederick S. Cozzens visited Halifax in 1856, for example, he fished for lobster with a flat-bottomed skiff and long iron-tipped poles, but the lobsters escaped.[16] This practice was still relied on recreationally in the early 20th century. Travel writer Will R. Bird describes a 1951 visit to Pubnico, Nova Scotia, where a resident explained that the local Lobster Bay was “so named because in the old days the men could go out at low tide and take in lobsters with long-handled rakes.”[17] Clara Dennis writes similarly of Seal Island:

We came upon the ‘Lobster Pot,’ a big rock with a great hole in the middle. The rock is covered at high tide. The fishermen used to put cod heads in the hole at low tide. At high tide the lobster would come in. When the tide ebbed, the fishermen would go down and fish the lobsters out with their hands.[18]

A final illustration comes from Newfoundland. Describing her childhood in a Newfoundland outport in the 1920s and 30s, Ryan writes: “[i]n the spring, Dad would take us all out in the boat. We would watch him get lobsters from under the rocks. He would use a long gaff and lean over the side of the boat and try to get the lobsters in where the water was shallow enough for him to reach them.”[19]


The lobster’s odds worsened significantly in the mid-1800s with the development of the canning industry.[20] One 1878 report records catches averaging six thousand lobsters per factory per day.[21] Notwithstanding these astounding numbers, lobsters were supplementary to most workers’ incomes. As Leard puts it, they were “something for boys to make an uncertain penny on. Lobsters indeed were not even considered as being worth more than their weight in manure. They were sometimes taken home by the thrifty kelp-gatherers of the early days, who recognized the value of lobster as compost material.”[22]


The transformation of lobster into a valued commodity came with the move from rake to baited trap and the growth of the live lobster market in the 1950s; live lobster sales rapidly replaced the canneries and opened up lucrative Canadian and American markets. Today, approximately 3,100 fishers set over a million traps annually in 41 Atlantic Canadian districts, each governed by a two-month season. In PEI alone, this translates to an annual harvest of over 20 million pounds.[23] Fishers, or harvesters, as they are more often called, are either highly regulated small business owners, or—if they are not boat owners—employees of one. Despite the importance of the industry to the regional economy, however, harvesters remain powerless to control fundamental aspects of their means of production, including the relative value of the “product.” Profits do not always reach them. In 2009, for example, lobster prices were the lowest in decades. Blame was assigned to people on all levels: boat owners, processors, buyers, and policymakers. As a result, lobster harvesters complained that their earnings, even when supplemented with Employment Insurance, did not allow them to make ends meet.[24] Increased industrialization has also led to an increase in the commodification of lobster. Lobster, which had never been regarded as a desirable food source by those who caught it to begin with, has become simply “the resource” or, once caught, “product.”[25]

Larry the Lobster


That lobster is best suited to occasional eating has helped to secure its place as the lynchpin in the newest work arena for many Maritimers: the tourism sector.[26] The PEI tourism department advises travellers not to think of visiting without eating a lobster, while the entire province of Nova Scotia (in which 2009 was the year of the lobster), as well as individual Maritime communities claim the title of “lobster capital.”[27] In an effort to offer visitors a unique experience and then to sell them evidence that they have had it, the region promotes lobster in its restaurants, hosts several summer-long lobster suppers, and features four long-running lobster festivals: in Pictou and Shelburne County, Nova Scotia; Summerside, Prince Edward Island; and Shediac, New Brunswick. While in Shediac you can get your picture taken with a statue billed as “the world’s biggest lobster” and, as in several other communities throughout the region, you can pay to go out on a lobster boat. The range of lobster souvenirs runs the gamut from clothing and cookbooks to children’s toys and candy.[28]


Promoters face challenges when lobster is at the intersection of industry and tourism. They must lure customers–that is, tourists–by portraying lobster as a food that marks a special time—vacation—as well as a special place. But when eating an animal includes taking it home and killing it in your own kitchen, marketing that animal can be a tricky business—a point David Foster Wallace makes in his famous piece, “Considering the Lobster.”[29] Covering the Maine Lobster Festival for Gourmet Magazine, Wallace was appalled by the tanks of live lobster looking out at him. Rather than relishing the specialness of the succulent lobster as the PEI government instructs visitors to do, he was horrified by the relish expressed by other lobster-eating patrons.


Even for the less squeamish neophyte who can tolerate sucking lobster legs and digging meat out of the body cavity with picks, there is a fine line to be walked between an anthropomorphic over-identification with lobsters and the total denial of such identification underlying the fishing industry. A PEI video tourism ad featuring the “Lobster Feast Experience” with Captain Mark Jenkins attempts to strike this delicate balance. Welcoming visitors to his lobster boat-turned-tour boat in Charlottetown Harbour, Jenkins hauls in a lobster trap to reveal a 9-pound, 30-year-old lobster that he refers to not as product, but as Larry. Jenkins shows concern for the lobster’s wellbeing as he gently returns it overboard. The tourists then round off their $85 excursion with a lobster dinner that is not Larry.[30]

The Lobster Feed


Maritimers eat lobster at regional festivals,[31] summer-long lobster supper tourist operations, or when they purchase them alive or boiled from a grocery store or lobster pound. More commonly, however, they consume lobsters at an annual “feed.” On these occasions, lobsters are purchased live and in large quantities from a pound or fisherman known for selecting “good” lobsters that are full of meat.[32] The lobsters are often prepared with great precision, kept and then boiled in salt water following exact timing. Fastidiousness in determining where and from whom the lobsters are purchased, their size, and the manner in which they are cooked usually does not extend to the way in which they are served. Rather, the table is covered with newspapers, and pots, bowls, or buckets collect empty shells. Nutcrackers and other implements, including hammers, can be used for cracking, although these are shunned by the most experienced. A feed, moreover, usually consists only of lobster with a little melted butter for dipping—no side dishes are provided. Normally everyone eats more than one with the goal of satisfying his or her taste until next year.


Like the New England clambake, the Maritime lobster feed celebrates nature and denies culture;[33] the omission of side dishes renounces traditional understandings of what constitutes a “meal,”[34] while the consumption of the entire lobster challenges regional understandings of what makes for appropriate “food.” In a re-appropriation of peasant food, that is, Maritimers eat lobster in counter-hegemonic ways–cleaning out the body cavity and eating the roe.[35] One Acadian in his thirties who grew up in the Clare district of Nova Scotia describes this method of eating lobster, which he learned from his father: “I eat lobster cold with no butter. With a butter knife. I don’t use a nut cracker or anything. I open everything, like claws, with a butter knife. I eat everything, the chambers, even ‘la grandmère’ behind the head.”[36] This and similar techniques are widespread in the region, and go back generations. As a fisherman explained to travel writer Will R. Bird in the 1940s,

“Folks not used to lobsters lose a lot of the best eatin’. They fork the meat out of the tail and claws and leave the rest alone, never knowin’ the best tidbits is hid in the main gear or that they kin suck the meat out of the legs. Wimmen here a year gone said lobster legs was juicier an’ better’n frog legs. Me. I don’t know. I never et frog legs.”[37]

The tradition of the feed stands in stark contrast to the lobster dinners I served tourists during my years as a waitress: each consisted of a complete meal, literally served on a silver platter, and many diners ate only the choicest, most accessible parts. Feeds, on the other hand, do not impose distance between diners and lobsters through fancy tablecloths or strict etiquette. Instead, Maritimers enjoy the intimacy of the feed, both with the lobster, as they pry and suck bits of meat from the shell, and with the other diners who share their experience. The feed brings family and friends together in a celebration of summer and leisure, and simultaneously enacts a common past rooted in the land and the sea. For many, to eat lobster is to taste home.[38]

Lobster Tales


As Foer writes, “[w]e are not only the tellers of our stories, we are the stories themselves.”[39] Accounts of lobster being used to fertilize farm fields or of children embarrassed to take lobster sandwiches to school symbolize a time when the economy of the Maritime Provinces was close to subsistence; times were hard. Yet for Maritimers, these generalized narratives embody the wealth of the past rather than its poverty.[40] They tell of a day before fishers and lobsters were fully commodified as “harvesters” and as “product.” People worked hard but enjoyed greater independence; licences and government regulations did not bind fishermen so tightly. These stories are also shorthand for, or “tableaux” of,[41] the plight of Maritime fishers, and may be extended to apply to other labourers who have not been adequately reimbursed. Ecologically, they speak of a time when the region’s natural resources were abundant–lobsters could be found in the rocks and traps yielded so many they were difficult to lift–and accessible to everyone. Government, buyers, and processors exerted less control over the oceans. Instead, residents determined how much lobster was too much, and the surplus helped farmers build up land needed to grow food.


In linking what Pierre Bourdieu identifies as the main opposition in the capital value of cultural consumption—tastes of necessity and tastes of luxury[42]—these stories also implicitly poke fun at restaurant goers who pay $30 for meals that in the past would hardly have been considered food. The intimacy of the lobster feed contrasts with the detached dining experience of tourists who lack the insider knowledge to competently buy, prepare, and eat lobster. Shared knowledge of the role the lobster has played in the region’s past, whether largely apocryphal or factual, makes history—as it is imagined—visible.[43] Serving as critical counter-memory, the stories of lobster told by Maritime Canadians mediate work and leisure, fishing industry and tourism, present and past, just as they raise important issues of ecology, power and place.


This article is based on an earlier paper presented as part of the panel “Culinary Delineations,” co-sponsored by the Folklore Studies Association of Canada and the Canadian Association of Food Studies, which took place at the 2010 annual meeting of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. I benefitted from the comments of participants in this session as well as from the suggestions of two anonymous reviewers. Thanks also to Eric Comeau, Peter Latta, Sybil MacLean, Henry Tye, and Mark Tye for their assistance.

Note biographique

Diane Tye is an Associate Professor in the Department of Folklore, Memorial University. She is the author of Baking as Biography. A Life Story in Recipes (McGill-Queen’s, 2010).




For a discussion of the meanings of culinary tourism, see Lucy M. Long, ed., Culinary Tourism (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2004).


Pauline Greenhill, Ethnicity in the Mainstream: Three Studies of English Canadian Culture in Ontario (Montreal & Kingston: McGill Queen’s University Press, 1994), 34.


Helen Darcy Wilson, Tales from Barrett’s Landing. A Childhood in Nova Scotia (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, [1964]), 40-3.


See Jan Harold Brunvand, The Vanishing Hitchhhiker. American Urban Legends and their Meaning (New York: W. W. Norton, 1981), xii.


See The Canada Gazette (Supplement August 31, 1889), 2.


For example, see David J. Hufford, The Terror that Comes in the Night. An Experience-Centred Study of Supernatural Assault Traditions (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1982).


David E. Sutton, Remembrance of Repasts. An Anthropology of Food and Memory (Oxford: Berg, 2001), 2.


Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals. (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009), 12.


George A. Leard, Claws, Tales & Tomally. Prince Edward Island Lobster Lore (Charlottetown, PE: Prince Edward Island Heritage Foundation, 1975), 1.


Leard, 1.


Leard, 8-9.


Lobster King Good Customer of Newfoundland,” [St. John’s] Daily News 15 October 1947), 5.


E. M. Richardson, We Keep a Light (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1961 [1945]), 218.


Richardson, 219.


Marie Nightingale, Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens. A Collection of Traditional Recipes of Nova Scotia and the Story of the People who Cooked Them. 12th printing (Halifax: H. H. Marshall, 1981), 26.


Marjory Whitelaw, ed., Letters from Nova Scotia (Toronto: Oberon Press, 1986), 141. In 1856, Cozzens, an American wine merchant and humorist, wrote of lobster for sale at the Halifax market: “Let us visit the market-place.... codfish, three-pence or four-pence each; lobsters, a penny; and salmon of immense size art sixpence a pound (currency), equal to a dime of our money.” Ibid., 27.


Will R. Bird, This Is Nova Scotia (Toronto: Ryerson, 1951), 129.


Clara Dennis, Down in Nova Scotia (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1934), 317.


Gladys Ryan (Oxford-Hewlett), Outport Girl: Growing Up in a Newfoundland Outport Circa 1920-1935 (Lewisport, NL: Outport Publishing, 1992), 57.


Leard, 4. George Leard dates lobster canneries throughout Maritimes Canada to the mid 1800s. Leard traces the development of the canning industry to approximately 1844. He notes that lobsters were canned in Saint John, NB in 1840 and the first ad from PEI is 1858. The canning industry opened up a new kind of lobster “work” to Maritimers and the work force included numbers of rural women who took advantage of this rare, if temporary, source of income.


Leard, 7.


Leard, 19.


P.E.I. lobster landings hit record,” CBC News, August 10, 2010, accessed May 24, 2011, http://www.cbc.ca/canada/prince-edward-island/story/2010/08/03/pei-lobster-landing-spring-2010-584.html.


In spring 2010, Buck Watts, MLA in the PEI for Tracadie-Hillsborough Park, proposed a bill that would regulate lobster prices. A former lobster fisherman himself, Watts wanted to match lobster prices on Prince Edward Island to those on the mainland. Fishers complain that buyers often pay higher prices off the island. However, the price-fixing bill was vetoed by Premier Robert Ghiz who countered that “we don’t live in what was communist Russia where we, as government, dictate what people are charged for things” (“Premier vetoes lobster price-fixing bill,” CBC News, May 3, 2010, accessed June 16, 2011, http://www.cbc.ca/canada/prince-edward-island/story/2010/05/03/pei-lobster-price-watts-584.html). Fortunately, without the bill, as of May 2010, prices were up from the previous year (to $3.25 a pound for canners, and to $4 for markets)(“Prices rebounding for P.E.I. lobster,” CBC News, May 7, 2010, accessed June 16, 2011, http://www.cbc.ca/canada/prince-edward-island/story/2010/05/07/pei-lobster-prices-up-584.html#ixzz0oearxCiu) but fishers are also exploring other alternatives, including creating their own marketing co-operative in an effort to ensure fairer prices. (“PE: fishermen discover world ‘clawing’ for P.E.I. lobster,” Daily Business Buzz, March 22, 2010, accessed June 16, 2011, http://www.dailybusinessbuzz.ca/2010/03/22/pe-fishermen-discover-world-%E2%80%9Ccrying%E2%80%9D-for-pei-lobster/).


For example, see the Lobster Council of Canada’s website, accessed June 16, 2011, http://www.lobstercouncilcanada.ca.


For example, a Prince Edward Island promotional ad reads: “A Prince Edward Island vacation is not a vacation at all without succumbing to the succulence offered up by a maritime lobster feed unlike any you’re likely to find anywhere else… Lobster is not so much a part of Prince Edward Island life as it is a fact of Prince Edward Island life... While a much valued delicacy today, in decades past, that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, the lobster was once considered very common and farmers of Prince Edward Island would often spread lobsters on their fields for fertilizer. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Prince Edward Island potatoes have come to have the storied reputation and taste they do” (“A Recipe for the Perfect Maritime Vacation includes PEI Lobster,” accessed June 16, 2011, http://ezinearticles.com/?A-Recipe-For-The-Perfect-Maritime-Vacation-Includes-PEI-Lobster&id=555011).


For example, Shediac, New Brunswick claims to be the lobster capital of the world (“Shediac lobster festival,” accessed June 16, 2011, http://www.shediaclobsterfestival.ca/), while Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, more modestly boasts of being the lobster capital of Canada (“Shelburne County lobster festival,” accessed June 16, 2011, http://www.discovershelburnecounty.com/lobsterfestival.html).


Maine residents, who read the lobster as a symbol of how economically disadvantaged they were in relation to the wealthier tourists who visited, protested the adoption of the lobster on their state licence plates. See: George H. Lewis, “The Maine Lobster as Regional Icon: Competing Images Over Time and Social Class,” Food and Foodways 3.4 (1989), 308. In Maritime Canada, however, the lobster is more a symbol of livelihood than exclusivity.


David Foster Wallace, “Consider the Lobster,” originally published in Gourmet Magazine, August, 2004. For online version, see: “Consider the lobster,” Gourmet, accessed June 16, 2011, http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s/2004/08/consider_the_lobster


See: “Lobster feast in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada,” accessed June 16, 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plBxQ1MiWmI.


Interests of visitor and resident converge in the region’s several lobster festivals. For example, the Pictou Lobster Carnival, held since 1934 on the first full weekend in July in Pictou, Nova Scotia, is less about marketing lobster to tourists than it is signaling the end of another lobster season and the beginning of summer leisure. Locals consider Carnival as an annual homecoming where, unlike Wallace’s impression of the Maine Lobster Festival, lobsters are secondary to the concerts, parade, midway and other events that make up the festival. Certainly lobsters are present in the form of dinners in the curling club, lobster burgers served up by the Lion’s Club and a lobster mascot, but they take a bit of searching out. Work embodied as lobster is also present in a number of contests of skill, including hauling lobster traps and lobster boat races. These are held by the harbour so that, like the lobster dinners, they can be avoided by the uninterested. Without interpretative commentary they remain most accessible–and therefore most interesting—to a knowledgeable audience.


Eric Comeau, Personal interview, May 14, 2010.


Kathy Neustadt, Clambake: A History and Celebration of an American Tradition (Amherst, Mass: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992), 153.


See Mary Douglas, “Deciphering a Meal,” In Food and Culture: A Reader, ed. Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik (New York: Routledge, 1997), 36-54.


Mario Montaňo links the appropriation of peasant food with cultural hegemony: “The concept of cultural hegemony provides insight into the process of appropriation with regard to the food practices of Mexicans in the lower Rio Grande border region. In incorporating folk foods, the dominant culture can succeed in neutralizing, reinterpreting, and setting boundaries that separate ‘acceptable’ foods from those perceived as disreputable or threatening.” Mario Montaňo, “Appropriation and Counterhegemony in South Texas: Food Slurs, Offal Meats, and Blood,” Usable Pasts: Traditions and Group Expressions in North America, ed. Tad Tuleja (Logan: Utah State UP, 1997), 62. To re-appropriate that food thus becomes a counter-hegemonic act.


Comeau, Personal interview, May 14, 2010.


Will R. Bird, These are the Maritimes (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1959), 163-4.


Jillian R. Cavanaugh makes a similar point in terms of the consumption of lard in Bergamo, Italy. She writes, “Bergamascos look at their lardo and find “home” (151). Cavanaugh argues that when Bergamascos eat lard, a former food of poverty that has now been elevated to an elite food, they recreate an imagined time when every one lived simply and ate the same simple foods, and embraced an ethic of hard work and honesty. They attempt to reconcile their current way of living, which is similar to how people live all over Italy and the modern, globalized world, with their humbler peasant traditions (143-4). Cavanaugh, “Lard,” Fat: The Anthropology of an Obsession, ed. Don Kulick and Anne Meneley (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2005), 139-51.


Foer, 15.


Cf. Cavanaugh, 144.


For a discussion of the tableau in legend, see: See Edward D. Ives, “The Man Who Plucked the Gorby: A Maine Woods Legend,” Journal of American Folklore 74 (1961), 1-8.


See Pierre Bourdieu, “Taste of Luxury, Taste of Necessity,” The Taste Culture Reader: Experiencing Food and Drink, ed. Carolyn Korsmeyer (Oxford & New York: Berg, 2005), 72-8.


Yi Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1977), 157-8.

Note biographique

Diane Tye est professeure adjointe au département de folklore à l’Université Memorial. Elle est l’auteure de Baking as Biography. A Life Story in Recipes, publié aux Presses universitaires McGill-Queen’s en 2010.

Auteur : Diane Tye
Titre : Lobster Tales: Narratives of Food, Past, and Place in Maritime Canada
Revue : Cuizine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures / Cuizine : revue des cultures culinaires au Canada, Volume 3, numéro 1, 2011
URI : http://id.erudit.org/iderudit/1004730ar
DOI : 10.7202/1004730ar

All Rights Reserved © Cuizine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures / Cuizine : revue des cultures culinaires au Canada, 2011

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