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Is lobster the new turkey for Thanksgiving?

Cornish hens and Tofurkey also vie as holiday dishes.

By Brian WhitleyContributor to The Christian Science Monitor / November 26, 2008

SOURCES: National Turkey Federation, GNS research/Gannett News Service


A New England woman mounts a campaign to buoy struggling local fishermen. An Oregon man, after several failed experiments, crafts a dish to bring a marginalized minority back to holiday dinner tables. New Orleans chefs splash a staid occasion with Southern flavor.

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All of them share the same goal: to steal some of the Thanksgiving limelight from Tom Turkey.

No one will knock the beloved bird from its place in America's most traditional holiday. Some 88 percent of Americans ate turkey last Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation. But rivals are trying to chip away at the gobbler's lead.

This year's most direct challenge comes from Julia Munsey of Bangor, Maine, who worries about the state's lobster industry. The global financial crisis has depressed demand from Canada as well as the US, sending prices to lows not seen since the 1980s. This year's high fuel prices squeezed lobstermen even more.

"I kept thinking, 'I wish there was something I could do to help,' " Ms. Munsey says. "At the very least, I could buy lobster."

So she served lobster at her birthday dinner last month, hoping to inspire fellow residents to do the same by getting local media to cover the event. That gave rise to a grander idea: the Thanksgiving lobster.

Granted, the tasty crustacean is far pricier than turkey and it might seem slightly off-putting to the gravy-and-cranberry-sauce set. But it's quicker to prepare and, for those who relish real tradition, historical documents suggest it may well have graced the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving table. (It's mentioned along with wild turkey as a staple of Plymouth's autumn diet.)

Munsey approached friends at a marketing firm, who agreed to work pro bono on promoting the idea nationally. Two key state lawmakers lent their support at a news conference Nov. 18. That unleashed a flood of promises from residents to trade in the juicy bird – or, in the case of Thanksgiving purists, a side dish or two – for the area's signature seafood come Thursday.

"We would love to have people choose lobster instead of turkey. That would really make an impact in the industry," Munsey says. "But we understand that traditions are traditions."

Rigid holiday protocol actually helped Seth Tibbott craft his Thanksgiving alternative. For years, vegetarians faced a common dilemma: either munch only on salads and sides or force turkey-dinner hosts to scramble for another option.