1. Sign on Kroger fish counter, Friday, September 25: "Monkfish (Poor Man's Lobster): $10.99/lb."
2. Contemporaneous price of actual live Maine (or Rich Man's) Lobster: $17.99/lb.
2a. As has been pointed out, this yields far less than 1# lobster meat.
2b. As has not been pointed out, live lobster includes the liver, technically tomalley, unlike the monkfish, where it has been stripped and sold by commercial fishermen the way copper tubing from your air conditioner is stripped and sold to junkyards further inland. The live lobster may also contain roe, though in my experience gravid females rarely make it to Corn Belt supermarkets. Properly managed, the cooking liquid--or the shells and membrane, if the lobster is to be split first--become lobster stock. Thus the frugal man, Poor or no, can turn his purchase into two courses, at least, if not two meals.
3. Contemporaneous price of grill-ready ribeye steaks (aka, "the Reason God Invented the Cow"): $7.99/lb.
4. Contemporaneous price of farm-raised salmon: $9.99/lb.
5. Contemporaneous price of farm-raised tilapia: $4.99/lb.
6. I believe we have seen the dilemma of the Poor Man i' the adage.
7. There was, in addition, an intended sense of a corporate game of telephone, some aspects of which we will discuss below, which at no point in the line did any Kroger employee step up to remark upon.
B. Choice of Sides
1. There was, in the back of my mind, but certainly not intended as implicit in the post, the sense of the slack naming conventions, bordering on the criminal, and surpassing what qualifies as criminal should you or I engage in it, permitted the marketers of foodstuffs in the US of A.
1a. Where, for example, you can inject carbon dioxide into a steel vat of the indifferently-fermented pulp of substandard Thompson's Seedless grapes and call the result "Champagne" in as little as 48 hours, including bottling and shipping time.
1b. I'm not sure if laws "governing" trade even assure me the fish in question was what is commonly known as monkfish, or goosefish.
1c. I am, however, reasonably certain that "Poor Man's Lobster" is not a recognized cognomen for the species, except, perhaps, in some local area where it is a common trash fish, i.e., commonly netted but too ugly for commercial trade. Which suggests that either someone hailing from such a region rose to a position of prominence in the Kroger corporate marketing hierarchy and passed the name along innocently, or it was added in an attempt to improve the cachet of a trash fish they're attempting to peddle for eleven bucks a pound, and no one noticed the irony.
1d. My money's on the latter. In fact, the name almost certainly originated with the broker, who knew better.
2. I suggest that the term "Poor Man's Lobster" is, in common parlance, the name of a dish, or a cluster of dishes, designed to ape the flavor and texture of boiled Maine lobster in butter substituting inexpensive fish for expensive crustacean. Since the five seconds I put into Googling this back me up, I consider the matter settled.
3. Continuing in the recipe vein, the term was first brought to my attention thirty-years ago, on an ill-fated fishing trip on Lake Erie my father-in-law forced the rest of us into. The ship's captain's inamorata passed out loose-leaf copies of recipes designed to help you dispose of all the walleye and yellow perch you were sure to be sick of within three days of returning home, and "Poor Man's Lobster" was the one she singled out. I did not, however, get the chance to try it for myself, since by the time I had fully recovered from a heretofore unknown susceptibility to mal de mer, engendered by a couple hours spent on a small boat in the middle of a large lake which is no more than thirty feet deep, meaning that both the boat and I were heaving continually all afternoon, and which I foolishly braved a second time in the name of in-law bonhomie, accompanied by a marginally effective scopolamine patch, all the fish had spoiled.
4. As such we would note the typical inattention to concern over insult to person or intellect by the typical person with something to sell you and a conviction that such trumps all other concerns, which, as so often, borders on religious conviction in this country. It is one thing when some in-group, or collection of working persons, calls something "Poor Man's" this, that, or t'other; it is quite another when that is plucked up and plopped down half a continent away and used to move Product. The fisherman, processor, or charter operator who eats Poor Man's Lobster may, in fact, be wealthy, but is consuming what comes to him as surplus. The Hoosier who is a ninety-mile drive through Waving Fields of Soy from the tip of the nearest Great Lake who orders the dish in a restaurant may understand why it is so named. The supermarket shopper who sees it on the other side of the glass, applied to a species, not a pre-cooked meal, is the potential victim of an intended duping, and ought to be insulted by it, even if the brigand responsible is no closer than the home office in Cincinnati.
5. For that matter, there is no such thing as fresh fish in Indiana, unless you are desperate enough to pull a carp out of the Water Co. Canal, or suicidal enough to pull a dead carp out of the White River, aka "Indianapolis' Open Sewer Until Such Time As Pledging To Collect Justifiable Taxes And Spend The Revenues On Needed Infrastructure Benefitting The Entire Populace Becomes Anything Other Than A Guarantee Of Swift And Massive Electoral Defeat".
6. Rather ironically, a hundred years ago lobster was considered trash, and the only people who ate it were those who found themselves with no other means of disposal.