By Gabby Peyton
Summer on the East Coast of Canada can be summed up in a few words: salty breezes, lighthouses, and lobster rolls. There is no shortage of love for lobster in the Atlantic provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, so much so it’s almost a rite of passage to track down a feast of the crimson crustacean when visiting, and many celebrations are enjoyed over a table of cracked claws and drawn butter.
The history of lobster in Canada
It was the Mi’kmaq who first fished lobsters off the coast of the Atlantic provinces in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, known to them as “Wolum Keeh.” Later, as settlers from England and France started to fish the waters, lobster fishing was industrialized.
Full-blown lobster fisheries in Canada started in the mid 19th century, notably in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In the 1800s canning and transporting lobster was perfected and hundreds of canneries sprouted up across the Maritimes and Newfoundland, mostly small, family-run enterprises. At this time, lobster was still a poor man’s protein; it was inexpensive and underappreciated.
But by the end of the first world war, the price of lobster went up drastically, taking it from common canned comestible to the luxury ingredient it’s known as today.
By the mid-20th century, lobsters became a tourist attraction and eating them on the East Coast has become a rite of passage when road-tripping through the eastern provinces.
The now world-famous lobster suppers really came into their own throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, with dozens of spots to dive into a bucket of mussels across the Atlantic provinces. Places like the New Glasgow Lobster Suppers in Prince Edward Island or the Shore Club in Hubbards, Nova Scotia, offer up fantastic lobster dinners featuring all- you -can -eat chowder, mussels and huge lobsters (bibs are a requirement for this meal).
All roads lead to the Lobster Roll
While New England in the United States and the Maritimes in Canada are famous for their lobster rolls, the origin story for the lobster roll itself is a little murky.
Some historians credit the lobster fishers themselves with creating the dish. In the late 1890s when the east coast lobster fisheries were in full swing, the fishers would cook up the lobsters, put the meat on buns and sell them to tourists.
In restaurants, the first listing of a lobster roll appeared in the late 1920s at a place in Milford, Connecticut called Perry’s, and it took off. By the 1990s the lobster roll had reached East Coast Canadian canon — the McLobster was invented at the McDonald’s in Antigonish, Nova Scotia in 1993. Today, if you want a lobster roll, you can’t drive 10 feet into Nova Scotia without coming across a restaurant selling them. The Nova Scotia Lobster Trail has a map you can follow to try all the great spots along the coast.
Lobster Roll Recipe
- 3- 1 1/4 lb live lobster
- 3 Tbsp mayonnaise
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp chopped chives
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- freshly ground black pepper
- 6 New England-style hot dog buns
- chopped parsley
- lemon wedges
- Bring water to a boil in a large stockpot and salt generously. Add the three live lobsters and cook until lobster is bright red, around 8 to 10 minutes. Remove; let cool. Crack claws and knuckles, removing the meat from them and the body. Set aside.
- In a bowl, mix 3 Tbsp (45 mL) mayonnaise, lemon zest, lemon juice, chives and celery. Stir in lobster meat, season with salt and pepper.
- Butter the outside of the buns, place on a baking tray and broil them in the oven to toast, 2 minutes a side until they are golden brown.
- Place lobster mixture in the buns and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Serve with a lemon wedge.
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