Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Langostino" Lobster and Stupid Americans



OK...as a chef and someone educated about food, I was appalled the first time I saw the Long John Silver's commercials advertising Buttered Lobster Bites made with "real Langostino lobster." The term Langostino lobster is a nickname for a certain crustacean called the Squat Lobster. The word langostino is Spanish for prawn. (It may be familliar to some people becuase it is very common for European chefs to refer to prawns as langostines.) Squat lobster, however, are not prawns. They are not even lobsters at all, but are more closely related to hermit crabs and then, more distantly, true crabs. It is so aggrivating to me that the FDA allows “langostino” as a market name for these squat lobsters which are so far from true lobster it is almost funny, but not quite. They are fricking hermit crabs! Most are 3-5 inches in size. This is NOT Lobster! It's even more aggrivating because those certain businesses who use this shady advertising ploy are banking on the fact that the general American public isn't going to know the difference. And truly, most people don't know and don't care. It saddens me to know that I live in a country where this is a daily practice of advertising agencies which is approved by government agencies, and the citizens are too ignorant to know the difference, or even care.

15 comments:

Timothy M. Phillips said...

Long John Silver's is a weird phenomenon to me. No matter what city you happen to be in, there MUST be a better seafood joint to frequent. And If you live in a place along coast, why would you even think about eating there? There
s actually a LJS in New Orleans, of all places! Rubbish I tell you!

KK said...

If you lived in Salt Lake City way back when, you were LUCKY to find a LJS. Coming from New Orleans to SLC was culture shock in many ways - not the least was finding NO seafood other than what comes out of the can.

Cory Dzbinski said...

I love long john silvers! I live in San Diego and i'll still eat there lol. Why not?! Cheap greasy seafood...everyone has to want it sometime!

artdoll said...

As a Native New Englander I am sooo glad you posted this! When I first heard the ad I could not believe they said Langostino! DUH.. as you said...NOT a lobster! I am not sure where in MA they are located but this is indeed another place they should NOT be touting fake lobster!

spconsultant said...

That;s the problem with marketing laws. You can call anything anything. Lite might mean list color, less calories, or less food (lighter). I am going to market something called Certified Angustino Beef, which will be certified by me, and be nothing but tofu. It owuld be totally leagal, and everyone will say shame on stupid americans.

paucus-18 said...

As a biologist and just curious as to what a langostino lobster is in relation to other lobsters I found out that they are not lobsters. However, as that they are technically squat lobsters you can call them lobsters. Names are a funny ting, I mean for those sayig they are hermit crabs - hermit crabs are not technically crabs! I just hate that because something is general knowledge to people in Europe or to those familiar with the lobster fishing market that general American igorance of this inane fact makes us "stupid" Americans. Let it be known that marketing ploys are used worldwide because not only are Americans studid, humans in general are stupid.

Chip said...

This isn't unique to this situation. It happens with all seafood. I've got a background in fisheries science and aquaculture, so I'm always interested in how the seafood is labeled in the market. There is a species of tilapia, which is red, that I've seen labeled "freshwater red snapper". And pretty much any red fish will get labeled red snapper. It's also common to give fish a different name for marketing purposes... the most common example being Chilean Sea bass, it's really Patagonian toothfish. But you can't sell something called Patagonian toothfish for $25/lb. Also, I've recently come across "Pacific Rim Sutchi" on local restaurant menus. This is nothing more than Vietnamese farm raised catfish. When it comes down to it, the American consumer is woefully ignorant when it comes to seafood.

C. Wesley H. Crump said...

I pretty much agreed with everything you said - except for the "Stupid Americans" part. That's the sort of thing that's largely uncalled for and makes you sound like some bitter European who's been refused a solo art show in the states.

I don't think it's a case of US residents being stupid so much as it's a case of "banking on" a lack of exposure. The terrible culprit here is indeed LJS (and others who use this type of deception in marketing), but it does not make one an idiot to be underexposed.

If you had grown up in Kansas and had never eaten real lobster in your life, and had possibly never even seen a live one, and you wondered what it tasted like, you might be drawn to LJS for this product. The problem here is not the Kansan - lobster is not a heartland staple. There are plenty of things people eat all over this country (and world) that you've never been exposed to and might buy into it if they told you it was something else - but that wouldn't make you an idiot, as you'd have no frame of reference for it.

Ex: When I was a kid, my mother invited a friend over to dinner with us, and was making what (for us) was a rare treat - Oxtail stew. I'm black and from NYC and Oxtails are a staple in Caribbean food and food from the rural American south - as well as in black culture. My friend was a Jewish kid and I was fearful that he wouldn't eat it when he heard "Oxtails". My mother caught on to this and told him it was "beef stew" - which it was - but the beef wasn't from the same area of the animal as usual. He never knew the difference.

That didn't make him an idiot. He had no frame of reference to know otherwise.

I agree that LJS is doing a terrible disservice to Americans and food in general, but I wish you (and others) would stop calling people from the US idiots because a certain number of us are not exposed to everything under the sun.

I'm from NYC and people on the coast and in big cities get to experience a lot, but it's not fair to label whole populations who haven't had access to things as an idiot.

If they've had full exposure and still can't see a difference, then we can start assessing their intelligence, but until you have solid knowledge of their particular circumstances, please (at worst) keep the pretention to yourself and (at best) try to be a little more understanding and direct your anger accordingly - to LJS and others like them - not people who simply haven't had the fortunes we've had.

C. Wesley H. Crump said...

ADDENDUM TO MY LAST POST:
1. I am aware that "Langostino Lobster" is not lobster (and isn't anything, for that matter) and my eyebrows were raised when I saw those commercials also.

2. I don't mean to single-out mid-westerners as "underexposed". However, the UNited States is a very big country and I only meant to say that not every single person can know everything in a country this size. This is why the FTC should be much harsher on ads like this one...

Sharon aka Mom-Mom said...

Hi Belle,
I can see it has been a bit over a year since anyone posted to this blog but at this time - Baja Fresh - has been advertising Langostino Lobster in some of their dishes.

Yes - I was stupid enough to fall for it and tried their Langostino Lobster Burrito and it was not cheap either.

It reminded me of the crayfish that we used to catch as kids and I would not be a bit surprised if that is what Baja is using.

I also felt quite deceived - although - I was sure that it was not the great lobster that I enjoy from New England - I still hoped for something better.

I will never recommend their Langostino Lobster items and have made sure to "enlighten" my relatives and friends of this "misnomer"...

I agree with the gentleman that stated that we are no more "stupid Americans" than anyone else when it comes to something we are unfamiliar with...

We can all use some enlightenment and I have much respect for every human being no matter where their origin...

Sharon White - Baltimore, MD

zombiemovies said...

You know, I really don't see the problem here. Squat lobster is a kind of non appetizing name. Many seafoods have second names known in restaurants. Walleye=Pickerel, Blue Dolphin=Maui Maui, Sheep Head=Fresh water drumfish. What fishermen call the fish and what is appetizing is two different things.

Ma said...

@zombiemovies: That is what I was thinking! And as much as like to eat langostino lobster in soups and pasta dishes, I don't think I would have tried it if it was called squat lobster or hermit crab. I guessed it was maybe something like crayfish, but never thought it was actually lobster. I ddnt really think anyone would see it and think it was truly lobster!

Sherrie Willis said...

I agree wiht both comments, "I agree with the gentleman that stated that we are no more "stupid Americans" than anyone else when it comes to something we are unfamiliar with..." To the writer, don't need to be rude and condescending to educate - just informative. NYLadyBug

KatieCatB said...

Not all Americans are stupid - I'm over your blog. Lots of us cook with and are familier with exactly what a Langostino is. We use it for Creole dishes, Spanish dishes and Southern dishes. Not sure what planet your from but lots of cooks out there and I mean home cooks know what it is and how to use it in dishes. Just because some gross fast food joint uses it doesn't make me feel any dumber or smarter. Sorry but gotta run I'm making a Langistino pie with a fresh butter pastry crust.

Love,
An American - and noone here is stupid thanks!

Constitution said...

A study from Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Medical Center found that of people with seafood allergy about 17% are allergic to lobster, but almost double, about 35% are allergic to crab. So if you're planning on lobster and deliberately avoiding crab because of your crab allergy, understand that companies would rather commit what is tantamount to seafood fraud and risk your health and that of many people for an increase in sales. And the FDA is failing in it's duty to protect consumers from obvious and preventable allergic reactions, all they would have to do would be to mandate accurate labeling. "Langostino lobster" appears to be misbranded. 21 US Code Section 343
also "Adult Seafood allergy in the Texas Medical Center: a 13 year Experience" Khan, Orson, Ogawa, Parker, Davis