Jun 072014

I arrived in Newport today (May 30, 2014) to begin an 8 day course on the History and Architecture of the area.  Class does not start until this evening, which gave me the opportunity to grab the first, of what I hope will be many, lobster rolls during this visit.

I headed to Flo’s Crab Shack with my friend Phyllis, and along the walk I spotted these little plaques embedded in the sidewalk.


I am a big fan of the WPA, what it accomplished, what it stood for and the legacies that it left, so these were such a fun find for me.

The WPA employed more than 60,000 Rhode Islanders between 1935 and 1943 and spent $60million on projects offer the eight years.

WPA workers built or repaired 671 miles of highways, roads and streets and constructed or renovated 35 bridges and viaducts in Rhode Island. They also built 10,300 feet of airport runways and constructed or repaired five landing fields.

WPA Plaque in Providence RI

In Rhode Island, the WPA built or renovated 222 schools, 395 other public buildings, 34 parks, 54 playgrounds and fields, seven pools, seven power plants, and 184 miles of new sewers.

WPA employees in the state also served 818,187 school lunches; sent housekeepers on 85,558 visits; and manufactured 2.8 million garments of clothing. And 21,317 people attended WPA-produced musical performances.

If I have time to discover more WPA wonders in this coming week, I will bring them to you.

Flo's Crab Shack

A little about Flo’s…great atmosphere, but the food left a bit to be desired, but that is ok because it means the hunt is still on.

Regarding the Lobster Roll:  According to the Food Timeline:

Sometimes…the simpler the recipe the more complicated the history. Such is the case with lobster rolls. When it comes to lobster rolls, food historians generally agree on two points:

1. There is no one single recipe for lobster rolls.
2. Lobster rolls, as we know them today, are probably a 20th century invention because they require soft hot dog buns.

What is a lobster roll?
There seem to be two primary versions of the lobster roll: one is a mayonnaise-based lobster salad sandwich and the other is simply composed of hearty chunks of fresh lobster meat drenched in butter. Both are traditionally served in long (hot-dog type) buns which may be toasted. Pickles and chips are the usual accompaniments. Both are considered standard menu items with shore-based restaurants, diners and lobster shacks (inexpensive family-style outdoor eateries).

“ON A ROLL… Temperature’s rising, the surf’s pounding, the lobster harvest is at an all-time high. Bring on the lobster rolls! The roll: It must be a stand-alone hot-dog bun, rectangular, flat on both sides, coming to a crisp right angle at the flat base. If it’s oval or toasted, do not touch it. If it’s not buttered, do not even look at it. The meat: It must be fresh and predominantly from the tail. It must be at least three inches wide at the top, extending at least an inch above the crest of the bun. No less than a quarter-pound of lobster per sandwich. Some joints boast that they use a full lobster in each sandwich, but it takes nearly five lobsters to get a pound of meat. The dressing: The lobster may be mixed with a thin lather of mayo but not salad dressing. Dick Henry, co-owner of the Maine Diner, believes in naked lobster. “All meat,” he says. I, however, will accept celery, if finely chopped. “It gives a hint of the taste,” agrees Billy Tower, who has sold lobster rolls for four decades at Barnacle Billy’s restaurant. The temp: Like a hot-fudge sundae, the ideal lobster roll is a contradiction of temperatures: warm bun, chilled meat. “I’m 60 years old, and that’s the way I’ve always been told it should be,” says Georgia Kennett of Five Islands Lobster Co. But it has become quite respectable to serve the meat hot, in which case the lobster should be covered with drawn butter, not mayonnaise, and eaten with a fork and knife.”
—“On a roll,” David Shribman, Fortune, 8.13.2001 (p. 198)

A survey of current online menus confirms there is no distinct geographic boundary that separates the two versions. You can find both versions in restaurants from the top of Maine to the tip Long Island.

Mayo Lobster Roll

When did lobster rolls begin?

“Lobster rolls…because they are made with hamburger buns, they are definately twentieth century (soft, hamburger yeast buns were first maufactured in 1912).” —The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century, Jean Anderson [Clarkson Potter:New York] 1997 (p. 345)

“About 1966-67 Fred Terry, owner of the Lobster Roll Restaurant…in Amagansett, New York, produced a recipe containing mayonnaise, celery, and seasonings; mixed with fresh lobster meat placed on a heated hot-dog roll that has come to be known as the “Long Island (New York) lobster roll”…According to Carolyn Wyman…lobster meat drenched in butter and served on a hamburger or hot dog roll has long been available at seaside eateries in Connecticut and may well have originated at a restaurant named Perry’s in Milford, where owner Harry Perry concocted it for a regular customer named Ted Hales sometime in the 1920s. Furthermore, Perry’s was said to have a sign from 1927 to 1977 reading “Home of the Famous Lobster Roll.”
—Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 188)

Butter Lobster Roll

“The lobster roll is a tradition, though not a very old one. My 75-year-old father, who has lived all his life in Maine, says he doesn’t remember eating a lobster roll until sometime after World War II. ”It was down around Tenants Harbor,” he said. ”Some people named Cook had a stand down there where a lobster roll cost 35 cents.””
—“Fare of the Country: In Maine, Lobster on a Roll,” Nancy Jenkins, New York Times, July 14, 1985 (section 10, p.6)

I prefer my bun toasted and my lobster with mayo, I may have it all wrong apparently.

Salva Regina Dormitory Annex

That’s my room on the top right

We are hunkered down in the dorms of Salve Regina University founded by the Sisters of Mercy, the university is a Catholic, co-educational, private, non-profit institution chartered by the State of Rhode Island in 1934. In 1947 the university acquired Ochre Court and welcomed its first class of 58 students.

We sit on the porch of the dorm and look out onto the Breakers.  Well, not exactly this view, but we can see the chimney pots.

The Breakers Newport RI

The Breakers