Out of the pot

If we were rational in our food preferences, we would all be subsisting on beans, seaweed and preparations of cricket flour. But we are not entirely rational creatures. Habit, associations and cultural context are as important as flavor and aroma in determining our food choices.

New England settlers brought their English food prejudices with them. Venison, turkey and swans they considered high-status foods because they had graced princely tables in the Old World. Mussels, oysters, and eels were familiar favorites for English palates.

In the early days of coastal settlements, large lobsters were so plentiful and easy to catch that they were taken for granted and sometimes associated with poverty. Only gradually did the crustacean become a high-status food.

In 1858, when Mary Peabody Mann published “Christianity in the Kitchen: A Physiological Cook-Book,” she apparently did not consider lobster a prestigious food. She included a recipe for shrimp pie that disguised lobster with tomato and breadcrumbs to substitute for shrimp. The recipe that she called corn pie was actually a lobster and corn pie and quite a good one. Following is my adaptation of her recipe.

Lobster and Corn Pie
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Lobster and Corn Pie
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  • Bottom pastry for one, 9-inch pie
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • pinch of cayenne
  • ¼ tsp. mace
  • ½ lb. cooked, picked lobster meat
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped scallions (about 2 scallions)
  • cups cooked corn niblets (cut from about 1½ ears)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line pie pastry with aluminum foil and fill with dry beans or pie weights to partially bake the pie shell for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights, reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake for 12 more minutes.
  2. Allow to cool. Prick any bubbles that appear and press them down gently with the back of a fork.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Beat the eggs in a large bowl and whisk in the milk, cream, salt, and spices. Chop the lobster meat into bite-size pieces and stir them into the egg mixture; stir in the scallions and corn. Pour this filling into the pie shell and bake the filled pie for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for 50 minutes more or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
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