While the New England Lobster feast is a year round tradition older than America itself, New England seafood was a part of the first Thanksgiving. According to historical lore, the pilgrims first learned about the lobster from Native Americans.
In a letter home to England in 1621, the Pilgrim Edward Winslow wrote of how they fished, hunted and brought in the harvest to set out a feast for the entire pilgrim company and guests, including the Indian King Massasoit and 90 Indians. Winslow wrote that the feast lasted for five days. The Winslow letter was published in England in 1622 causing great excitement and helping to start the tradion of a Thanksgiving feast.
So while turkey has center stage today, the pilgrims first feast gave the lobster clambake a starring role with the turkey. For many New Englanders, the lobster is an alternative part of Thanksgiving.
The story is told about how seven Nationally known Boston Chefs eschewed the turkey one year and took the pilgrim lobster tradition to their Thanksgiving Holiday table. An article in Food and Wine Magazine published more than a decade ago tells the story of how the chef’s and their families got together at Lydia Shire’s (Biba, Towne Stove) farmhouse home in Weston, Massachusetts and created a “potluck extravaganza” to revolutionize Thanksgiving dinner.
Chef Todd English (Olives, Figs) brought the lobster and served it in its shell with a warm, creamy nutmeg vinaigrette and a chestnut puree. Every chef contributed, including Jody Adams (Rialto), Gordon Hamersley (Hammersley Bistro), Susan Regis (Biba), Chris Schlesinger (East Coast Grill), and Jasper White (Jaspers, Summer Shack). The menu included the lobster, cod, oysters, pumpkin soup, turkey and more.
While this menu would be overwhelming for most home kitchens, the tradition of holiday feasts with all the wonderful seafood from the cold, clean New England waters can be part of any family celebration this year. Thanksgiving Dinner can be extra special by serving fresh lobster and shellfish. The best part is you no longer have to go to Plimouth Plantation, Cape Cod or Maine to enjoy Maine lobster. Thanks to an online retail lobster delivery service, live Maine lobster can be shipped overnight to any home in the United States.
Let’s eat lobster!
© Wayne Howe 2018