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The Art of Eating a Maryland Blue Crab

How eating is crab is like a conversation with my father-in-law.

Every summer my son and I take a trip to the East Coast for a visit with family and friends, where we spend at least three weeks, sometimes more depending on what the grandparents have planned. One summer we spent five weeks. No grown woman should spend five weeks with family, but I did because it’s important to the grandparents and the grandchild. As an only child living away from family, my son needs those weeks to reconnect with his relatives and I do too.

During our week in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., my husband joins us at his parent’s house and we immerse ourselves in all things Maryland, especially a Maryland blue crab feast. The funny thing about eating a crab is it’s much like having a conversation with my father-in-law, frustrating at times breaking through the shell, but ultimately rewarding.

My father-in-law is a brilliant, retired electrical engineer, always thinking, sometimes too much. He has legitimate concerns about his grandchildren’s future; mostly about Americans not being competitive enough on a global scale, how we don’t offer our children enough math and science classes, etc. He’s not entirely wrong but it’s not necessarily a discussion I want to have while on vacation and eating crabs. But like a crab’s claw, my father-in-law is tenacious and won’t let go of a subject once he grabs on. 

What to do with those tenacious crabs? Steam them up until they’re red, season them with some Old Bay and break them open to eat along with a cold beer or a fruity drink, and enjoy. That’s what I have to remember most about talking with my father-in-law, to enjoy, even through the spicier, over-cooked conversations, his intent is well-meaning. And once we break through the shell of his concern, the sweet reward of watching him with his grandson is worth all the work.

Crabs are best enjoyed fresh out of the Chesapeake Bay at the crab houses that line the Bay and its tributaries. In a pinch, however, blue crabs can be enjoyed right here in Kirkwood.

We buy live crabs at an Asian market on Olive Boulevard called Seafood City. We bring them home and steam them on the stove. We roll out the brown paper tablecloth, invite some friends to join us, ice the beer, melt some butter and bring a little bit of Maryland to our patio. We even manage to have very lively discussions, just not about math and science. 

Give a crab feast a try before this summer’s out, I can always be reached for buying and cooking advice or for appropriate crab-eating topics of conversation. Enjoy!

Tom Bedwell August 11, 2011 at 09:32 PM
nice piece...what's beer pairs best with crab?
laurie August 12, 2011 at 09:04 AM
loved knowing where to buy the little rascals...haven't eaten them since we caught them in NJ somewhere in 1977!
Laura Hazan August 15, 2011 at 11:30 PM
Thank Tom. The best beer to pair with crabs is a lager, something like a Bud or Bud Light, it will keep the flavor of the crabs as the primary taste on your tongue.
Laura Hazan August 15, 2011 at 11:32 PM
Happy to help Laurie. They are a tasty treat, and as I also found out last week, you can order them from Maryland already steamed and spiced and have them shipped to your home. My brother-in-law send some to my husband for his birthday this way.
Sue Schwent August 18, 2011 at 03:28 PM
Another great article Laura! Now I'm longing for a crab feast on the Barter patio!

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