Date: Tue, 28 May 1996 20:11:55 -0500
From: Marty Rosen
Subject: Re: Bonnie & Clyde's House (Was: Hotel/Hostel)
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L
On Mon, 27 May 1996, Natalie Maynor wrote:
> I'm trying to remember crab experiences but can't remember anything
> bothersome. Maybe I've never eaten «real» crab. But as for not
> understanding, I don't see the problem. If getting the food out of a
> crab is much more work than getting it out of a lobster, then the crab
> labor is far, far more effort than I want to exert during a meal.
The first time I visited the Outer Banks, I stopped at Buxton Seafood and
saw that Blue Crabs were on sale for $3/dozen. I'm not shy about trying
new things, so although I'd never cooked crab, or lobster, I purchased 3
dozen. Now, blue crabs are ferocious and quick (unlike the crabs they
harvest off the coast of Maine, about which more anon), and I had only a
cheap styrofoam cooler in which to transport these 36 demons. Moreover,
I was lone in the car, since everyone else in my part was down at the
beach, relaxing. So, slide 1: me driving down the highway holding on for
dear life to the top of this fragile styrofoam container while within
these rebellious creatures plotted the great escape, scraping and clawing
at the cooler.
Now, mature blue crabs are flexible, aggressive, and have a pretty good
reach, maybe a foot or more from claw to claw when fully extended. I had
not planned very far in advance, so imagine my astonishment upon arriving
back at the cottage when I discovered that the only tongs to be found in
our kitchen supplies were a mere eight inches long. Slide 2: me trying
to lift adversarial crabs from cooler, while other crabs try to skitter
over the edge. Slide 3: intrepid crabs escaping from short tongs by
threatening my own digital appendages. Slide 4: crabs skittering
sideways across the kitchen floor while everyone else in the cottage
screams and fleas or jumps for high ground.
In the fullness of time, of course, most of the critters were brought to
bay (Old Bay, that is), and after a suitable immersion, were ready for
breaking. We had no wooden mallets, such as they use in the crabhouses of
Baltimore, but we did have plenty of newspaper, and finally managed to
come to grips with these guys, and had some fun eating them and making
crab cakes. Still, all in all, I think they're a lot of work. I prefer
lovely softshell crab sandwiches, crab rolls, etc.
Now, a few years later, the spousal unit and I went up to Acadia, in the
land of Bonnie and Clyde, in the cool, pre-tourist month of May. We
wanted to go out on a lobstering boat, but none of the excursion boats
had started their seasons. One day, as we were driving past Bass Harbor,
I spied a bunch of picturesque fisherman repairing their nets. I stopped
the car and made known to them our interest in going out on a boat. One
of them, a fellow named Lewis (maybe Ken?) allowed as he was going out
the next morning at 4:30, and if we showed up at the harbor, he'd be
happy to take us out.
We rushed out to buy rainslickers and prepare ourselves a lunch, and the
next morning we were out at the dock by 4:30. It was cold (by our
standards) and raining in gusts, but out we went. clinging to the walls
of his lobsterboat while he explained the customs of lobstering (i.e.,
how his father would cut his traps if he had the effrontery to place them
on his father's oceanic turf).
He was emptying his traps of lobsters and crabs by hand. He started out
with brown jersey gloves, but after they grew soggy reverted to catching
the crabs and lobsters barehanded and tossing them into his tubs.
Occasionally, small fish had wandered into his traps. These he grabbed
by the mouth and tore in half, placing them back in the traps as bait.
Select treats he stashed away for dinner. Crabs and lobsters went into
separate tubs, but occasionally landed on the deck. Unlike the speedy
crabs of the south, those of Maine were sluggish, reflective creatures.
After a full day of fishing, we returned to harbor around 2 p.m., and Mr.
Lewis offloaded and took us to his home, where he had a major processing
operation. He and his wife (from Vietnam) steamed and picked some
freshly harvested crab for us to eat on the site. It was probably the
best seafood I'd eaten to that point, though it has since been superseded
by the Clambake meal.