Yes, you read that right. Until this past Labor Day weekend, I had never eaten a crab. I am 22 years old, was born in Takoma Park and raised in central Maryland. Yet, I had never eaten a steamed crab.
I can hear the gasps already.
I don’t know if I have never eaten them because I am not really into seafood or because my family never served crabs. When I told my boyfriend, Josh, who lives less than 20 minutes from the Inner Harbor, he grinned at me and said, “Well, we will have to change that.” Two days later, he told me that I would be having crabs with him and his family over Labor Day weekend. I was both hesitant and excited.
We went to a place called Salty Dog’s Crab House in Dundalk, and there were crabs everywhere. It was hard to tell what was what, but Josh ordered two dozen medium males. I Googled this and learned that apparently male crabs are better.
At home, he placed the brown paper on the kitchen table and pulled a crab out of the bag. I screamed at the sight of the 10-legged creature. It hit the table, and I thought how on Earth am I going to eat that? Josh reassured me. I took a deep breath and he handed me a mallet. Time to do this.
First, I pulled off the claws the way he showed me. Then I cracked them open with mallet. This was messy, but my favorite part of the whole experience and his mother and a friend laughed and laughed at my weird facial expressions but also how much fun I was having.
The most freakish part was when Josh had me take a knife and dig into the crab’s middle section. What was that yellow stuff? What was the black thing? Where was the brain? Josh went over a whole anatomy class of details, helped by his mom’s friend, so I knew exactly what I was doing when I opened my next crab. It was really a team effort to teach me.
When I took my first bite of crab meat, it tasted different than I had expected. I instantly tasted the Old Bay. I had never understood why so many Marylanders liked Old Bay so much, but know I understood that the seasoning made a difference. It was salty, kind of like sand, but not in a bad way. Now I won’t be putting Old Bay on my corn or anything else, but I do understand why it was on the crabs.
As I carefully picked through my second crab, my boyfriend and his family talked about different things — their day, their friends and other crab recipes. That is when I realized that it’s not just the crab itself that makes this experience so good, it’s the company that comes along with it. Picking crabs is something that people tend to do together, so there is a sense of tradition.
Josh’s grandma reiterated this after she told me stories of family crab feasts and I could picture her large family gathered around a table picking crabs, making fun of each other and enjoying memories.
What I learned: I don’t entirely like the physical activity of picking crabs. I do enjoy the culture and value behind it. And I do like the taste of crabs, so you’ll definitely see me enjoy good crab dip every once in a while. Most importantly, I can finally check eating steamed crabs off my life list. My status as a true Marylander can never be questioned.