Friday, October 31, 2014

Etiquette for Lobster and Shellfish

How to Eat a Lobster Boiled or Broiled-

Andy (Andrew) Warhol's artwork added to “Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette,” as well as her wonderful cookbook

1. Holding the body of the lobster on the plate with the left hand, twist off the claws with the right. Lay on side of plate.

2. Holding the lobster steady on plate, if necessary, lift up tail meat with fork. Cut into manageable segments with knife, dip in melted butter or mayonnaise.
3. Break off small claws and gently suck out meat from severed end.

4. Crack big claws, extract meat with seafood fork or nutpick, dip in melted butter or mayonnaise.

5. With seafood fork, pick out the good meat in the body, including the tamale, the green liver (and in females, the scarlet roe). Real lobster lovers unhinge the back and open the body of the lobster to extract the remaining sweet morsels.

A collection of seafood forks and cocktail forks, along with one splayed-tine lemon fork. 

Steamed Clams -
The steaming process is supposed to open the shell completely but sometimes doesn't. If a shell is not fully open, take it up and bend it back with the fingers. If this doesn't work, forget that one. Do not use a dinner knife or fork as an opener. With shell fully open, take the shell in left hand just over the dish and with the right hand lift out the clam by the neck. Holding the neck with the right hand, pull the body of the clam from it and discard the neck sheath. Holding the clam by the neck with the right hand, place the whole clam first in melted butter or broth, or both alternately, then in the mouth in one bite.

As empty shells collect, remove to butter plate or shell plates provided (and as clam-eating of this kind is always informal, it is an excellent idea for the hostess to provide platters or bowls for empty shells as well as finger bowls with hot soapy water afterward). Do not spoon up remaining liquid in soup plate- it may be sandy, but drink the broth separately provided in a bouillon cup or small bowl (but not if it is in a little dish). If clams are fried, eat with fork after breaking into two pieces if necessary. As these are greasy they should not be taken in the fingers, even by the neck.

Lobster and Hard-Shelled Crabs (Broiled or Boiled)-

Lobster picks, seafood forks and rare, silver, Victorian lobster tongs. 

The claws of both of these require dexterous handling. They should be cracked in the kitchen but further cracking at table (with a nutcracker) may be needed. Then the shells are pulled apart by the fingers and the tender meat extracted carefully so, if possible, it comes out whole. A nut pick is useful for this, but an oyster fork may do it, too. The claw meat, if small and in one piece, is dipped in melted butter or, with cold crab or lobster, in mayonnaise, then put all at once into the mouth. Larger pieces are first cut with a fork. The green material in the stomach cavity, called the "tamale," along with the "coral" or roe in the female, are delicacies and should be eaten with the fork. The small claws are pulled from the body with the fingers, then the body-ends placed between the teeth so the meat may be extracted by chewing (but without a sucking noise). The major portion of meat is found in the stomach cavity and the tail and is first speared, one side at a time, with the fork, then with the help of the knife, if necessary, lifted out and cut as needed into mouthfuls, then dipped in sauce or mayonnaise with the fork.


An odd fact ~ Watch what you serve if you are hosting any of the British monarchy. British Royals are never served shellfish in order to avoid poisoning. 

Served pickled or smoked on toothpicks as cocktail titbits and are thus taken via toothpick directly to the mouth. Served in shells and all in a variety of soup styles, too Moules Marinieres (Mussels mariner style) in a soup dish with a delicate thin soup like sauce redolent with garlic. The mussels may be picked out with a small oyster fork provided, but it is easier and just as correct to use the shells containing the mussels as small scoops. Pick up with the right hand and, placing the tip of the shell in the mouth gently (and silently), suck out mussel and sauce, then discard shell onto butter plate or platter provided. When shells have been cleared from dish, eat balance of sauce with spoon and bits of French bread used to sop up sauce, then conveyed to mouth with fork. The Italian variety of this dish has tomato, and is eaten the same way, often as a main dish with salad. A finger bowl is essential.

Oysters and Clams (Half Shell)-

Antique oyster or seafood fork 

Hold the shell steady with left hand and, using oyster fork, lift oyster or clam whole from shell, detaching, where necessary, with fork. Dip in cocktail sauce in container on plate, if desired. Eat in one mouthful. Oyster crackers may be dropped whole in sauce, extracted with oyster fork and eaten.

E.B. Mallory and Company's oyster advertisement, circa 1880's. Eliada Blakesley Mallory canning company in Gladesville and Baltimore, Maryland produced "Arrow Brand" oysters, thus the arrows being used as oyster forks in the advertisement. 

Shrimps, Scallops, Oysters (Fried)-

Diamond brand oyster advertisement. 

Eaten like fried clams, except that oriental fried shrimp (French fried with the tails on) are to be taken up by the tail and dipped in sauce, then bitten off to the tail, which is then discarded. Unshelled shrimp are lifted in the fingers, shelled, and conveyed whole to the mouth.

From the original "Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette"

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

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