Doug MacCash, a columnist from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, came to New York with his family recently and stopped into Zabar’s for lunch. He grabbed some lobster salad to pile on top of his bagel and chowed down. But something seemed wrong: the meat he was eating didn’t seem like lobster. The claws, for one thing, were too small. And the taste seemed familiar — much too familiar for someone who lived hundreds of miles from lobster teritory.
That’s because he was eating crayfish, lobster’s tinier uglier cousin. But he was paying lobster prices for it — more than $15 per pound. When he got home, he wrote a column for the newspaper about it. And that might have been the end of it.
But somehow the people at the Maine Lobster Council found out about this transgression and sprung into action — clearly they get an email every time the word “lobster” is mentioned anywhere. Suddenly, the seemingly innocent use of the name lobster on a tub of crayfish salad escalated into a bit of regional warfare. You see, they’re pretty serious about lobster up in Maine, and the use of a lobster’s name in vain is a major offense.
So, Dane Somers from the Maine Council called Zabar’s — he actually got Saul Zabar himself on the line – and reminded him that mislabeling food is a very serious matter. Only a member of the Homarus species can be called a lobster, according to the FDA. And crayfish ain’t lobster. “Mr. Zabar said his people were not aware that the labeling was incorrect and would change the labeling in the future,” the Bangor Daily News reported.
But that was a few days ago. When I went in today to pick up a tub of crayfish salad, Zabar’s was still calling it “lobster.”
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