Something’s not kosher on the Upper West Side. After word spread that Zabar’s, the well-known food store frequented by New Yorkers and tourists alike, was selling what appeared to be lobster salad for $16.95 a pound—but what was actually a less glamorous mix of wild freshwater crawfish, celery, mayonnaise, salt, and sugar—everyone from local customers to the Maine Lobster Council wanted an explanation.
The Times spoke to Saul Zabar, 83, Zabar’s president and co-owner, who stood by the decision to knowingly label the crawfish-based spread lobster salad:
“If you go to Wikipedia,” he said, “you will find that crawfish in many parts of the country is referred to as lobster.”
He read aloud the beginning of the Wikipedia entry for crawfish: “Crayfish, crawfish, or crawdads — members of the superfamilies Astacoidea and Parastacoidea — are freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters, to which they are related.”
By that definition, he said, he could call a product in which the main ingredient — actually, the only seafood ingredient — was crawfish, “lobster salad.”
The superbly misleading food item was first noticed in July, when the Times Picayune’s Doug MacCash was in town from New Orleans with his family. On line at Zabar’s, he made the surprising discovery:
“The tiny tubs of lobster salad in the refrigerator case caught my eye. Lobster salad on a bagel; why not? It was delicious, but the pink/orange tails seemed small and somehow familiar.
Then I read the label. The lobster salad ingredients were: wild freshwater crayfish, mayonnaise, celery, salt and sugar.”
The salad has since been renamed; you can find the identically priced Seafare Salad in the seafood aisle.
Lobster Salad, but a Key Ingredient was Missing [NYT]
In New York City a lucky crawfish can become a lobster [Nola.com]
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.