Louisa Macculloch (1785-1863) had two recipes for lobster in her hand-written 19th century family cookbook. One, for Stewed Lobster, is dated, July 4th, 1868 while the second, is for Lobster Soup. Both actually demonstrate what the author of “The Strange History of Lobster Stew” explains about early recipe names. In the early 1800s more nouns were used by cookbook authors for recipe names than verbs, for example, “lobster soup” or “oyster soup”. If the recipe name included a verb, it might be titled “To Stew Lobster”. This format changed again by the mid-1800s when authors dropped the phrase “to stew” and the recipe name became “stewed lobster” similar to the 1868 recipe in the Macculloch-Miller family cookbook.
The article also explained that early seafood soups or stews tended not to include milk until after the 1840s which may help to date the recipe below. Food historian and author of Mrs. Goodfellow: The Story of America’s First Cooking School, Becky Diamond, writes “Victorian Americans began placing a much higher social value on shellfish, especially oysters and lobster, which had been considered low-grade food by Europeans during the colonial era”.
Original recipe: Lobster Soup
1 large lobster chopped fine
1 quart of milk
1 pint of water
Boil together for a little while. Then add a piece of butter the size of an egg. Thicken with a large spoonful of flour. Add salt, a shake of cayenne pepper, and a glass of wine. Strain before serving. Before thickening it, take out the lobster with a skimmer then return it to the pot for a few minutes before straining.
Adapted recipe: Lobster Soup
1 large lobster (1 ½ to 2 lb.), steamed and chopped fine
2 cups of milk 1 cup of water
¼ cup butter
2 tablespoons of flour Salt, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
½ cup white wine
In a saucepan heat milk, water, and lobster meat. Bring to a low boil and add butter. Thicken with two tablespoons of flour. Add salt, cayenne pepper, and ½ cup white wine. Yields 3 cups of soup. This can be made a day prior to serving and stored in the refrigerator.
Resources: Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance: https://mlcalliance.org/2012/03/06/the-strange-history-of-lobster-stew/
Post by Becky Diamond, author of Mrs Goodfellow: The Story of America’s First Cooking School and The Thousand Dollar Dinner, which shares the unique story of a luxurious 17-course feast that helped launch the era of grand banquets in nineteenth century America:
Topic: Munchie Monday
Age / Level: 1, Primary, Elementary, Life Long Learner