Okay, first of all, not those kind of crabs.
This is about Maryland crabs.
If you’ve never eaten them, it’s an experience everyone should have at least once in their lifetime, especially if you’re the type of person who enjoys demolition.
You go into a restaurant and sit at a big table covered with newspaper. Tablecloths are evidently not allowed, nor are any accouterments associated with fine dining, or, for that matter, neat dining. You know you’re in trouble when your place setting includes a fork, a knife and a mallet.
Your waiter will approach with a bucket and unceremoniously spill it onto your table, releasing a batch of spice-encrusted crabs which, if it’s your first time and you have not read the instructions, you will have no idea what to do with.
Yes, that’s right. You need instructions. Or, at the better crab shacks, your server might give you a tutorial. To my thinking, this automatically eliminates any food from my diet. I firmly believe that if something cannot be consumed intuitively, it should not be consumed. I can tell you this with certainty: I would not have been the first human being to try lobster. I think this is a desirable attitude from an evolutionary perspective: the path to modern humanity is littered with the old bones of ancestors who were the first to try stuff. For every “Hey this lobster is good, melt some more butter” there are probably thousands of “Gee, I wonder what happens when you step into this tar-like substance.”
Anyway, back to the crabs. You need to pull this little key-thingie which is sort of like the poptop on a beer can. I have no idea what function this serves in the natural world, but it was awfully nice of the crabs to have developed this appendage for the purpose of making themselves easier to eat. (Ironically, the key-thingie is actually called an “apron,” which is really what you need to eat the damned things.)
Once the key is pulled and you separate the halves of the shell, you get to use the mallet to smash the crab to pieces. Then you search for meat chunks in amongst the shell fragments (“Oh, honey, there’s a piece over there in the sports section near the box scores.”) Then you lick the spices off your fingers. Then you take your clothes to the dry cleaners.
My wife Barbara loves these crabs, possibly because it’s the one meal she can eat where, at the end of it, everyone’s shirt looks as stained as hers. I’m not a huge fan. They’re just too much work. I’m a lazy eater. My overarching philosophy is, if you can’t make a sandwich out of it, it’s not worth the trouble.
I’m mentioning crabs because of a news story I came across recently. Apparently, an excess of carbon in Chesapeake Bay has created a “super crab” which is a humongous creature that, when you hit it with the mallet, hits you back.
Crabs like carbon, you see, and it makes them grow to bigger than normal sizes. Unfortunately, these crabzillas don’t have any additional meat; only their shells get supersized. I guess the meat just rattles around in there. I’d think this means they’re more expensive now, since there’s less meat per pound. And also because the crabbers have to wrestle with each one to capture it.
I’m kidding about that last part, of course. Also about the “hitting you back” business. But it’s inevitable that these crabs will keep growing and that they will eventually rebel against their oppressors. They will sidle from the sea and menace mankind with their colossal claws. They will laugh at our pots of boiling water and our feeble attempts to remove their aprons. They will strangle us with our own bibs.
And when this happens, I hope they remember that I never liked eating them.
See you soon.