As I sit here on another gloomy day, not wanting to go outside because it's cold (so weird?!) I feel the need to think about some of my favorite summer moments. A highlight of this summer was an annual family party at the river filled with food, friends, drinks and....crabs. Crabs are one of my all time favorite summer foods, in my opinion a summer staple. I cannot go an entire summer with out having at least one crab fest, it just wouldn’t feel right. There is something special about someone putting down newspaper before I eat, prepping me with lots of paper towels and giving me the option of wearing a bib. It’s like being a child again. There is also something completely indigenous about the process. You truly feel like you are surrendering to the human instinct to work for food. Utilizing tools, just like a caveman and tediously and meticulously committed to a hunter/gatherer state of mind. The extent of most people’s work for food usually includes opening a wrapper or driving through a window. But, not crabs. You have to work for those precious little bits of meat, willing to incur injury from intense battle with the claws. And I go at it for hours.
At our recent annual summer party, for fear of my relentless protest, my parents made sure to get crabs. In addition, we decided it would be best to hide the crabs during the whole party and only bust them out the next day when all the frivolous guests had left, leaving more for the dedicated crab addicts. Very hospitable, if you ask me. We actually did the guests a favor, because after you eat crabs you smell like them for at least two days. So those who aren’t committed to the cause are better off not bothering at all.
My parents’ best friend Richard is the ultimate crab extraordinaire. He rips the backs off the crabs before he cooks them. So intense. This infuses the meat with so much flavor and spice it’s unbelievable. It also provides quite a deal of entertainment because it’s a guarantee there will be at least two runaways. He has a secret spice recipe that he wouldn’t share, and I don’t blame him. Things that good should be kept secret, anticipated, and savored, summer after summer.
Traditional Maryland Blue Claw Summer Crabs
The key is to buy them alive. If you don't have the guts to rip the backs off when they are still crawling, just throw them into steaming hot water, seasoned with a spice bag. Crabs are bluish-green alive and turn to a bright red when cooked so it's easy to gauge when they are done. Add a beer or two while they are cooking and some old bay, or your other crab spice of choice. I have had crabs cooked other ways and I still think the only way to eat them is with crab seasoning. We all agreed that the tingling of the lips and fingers, paired with a cold beer is what makes them so great. After pulling them out of the pot, season them again and allow them to cool before digging in!
What makes this bite better?
For me, it isn’t so much the crabs themselves as it is the act of eating them. If we apply the crab-eating tactic to every meal, we would eat less, enjoy our food more and be more satisfied. So try to work for your food- buy it, grow it, cook it, put some love into it. Then sit down with friends and family and enjoy it. So often we eat on the run, in the midst of chaos and we forget how good even the smallest bite can be if we take the time to savor it.