Rant: Only Someone From Maryland Has Any Business Talking About How To Prepare Crabs


I came across The Guardian’s helpful cooking video today entitled “How To Prepare Crabs.” That’s funny, I thought. Last I checked, The Guardian was not located in or near Maryland’s Eastern Shore, which is pretty much the only geographical locale allowed to school anyone on the ins and outs of crab foods. (Zack Pelaccio’s empire notwithstanding, because Fatty Crab is great, but it’s not the same thing). Then, the video wasn’t about how to prepare crabs at all. It was a proper little dash of advice on removing meat from the already cooked shells. This will not do. Out of pride for my home state, and to help out the crab-Googling populace, I must intervene.

As a child, my family vacationed in Rehoboth Beach, DE (might as well be Maryland, really) and we’d steam blue crabs at home by tossing those gnarly suckers into a too-small pot that they’d inevitably claw their way out of, launching a crustaceous attack on my brother and mom (I was smart enough to hop on a table, clearly), while dad donned oven mits to catch and throw them back in. THAT is how you cook a crab.

As an adult, I’ve had weekend vacations to the beach with friends, where we buy a bushel, put them into a steaming pot with a beach shovel (not actual measurement) full of Old Bay. If your fingertips aren’t red after all the claw-cracking and meat-grabbing, you were too light on the Old Bay. THAT is how you cook crabs.

When my brother came home to visit from California, he would round up his friends, throw some newspaper on our parents’ deck table and spend a day spilling guts and drinking beer. That’s how you do crabs. You get their saucy fluids all in your hands so that your next activity is voracious scrubbing with a half of a lemon. You spend hours over a pile of carcasses. It’s in your being. It’s part of ‘home’ for most Marylanders. It’s not a silly little sea-thing to try poking around with now and then, between spots of tea.

You don’t prepare crabs, incidentally, in a Julia Child accent. The only appropriate accent is one from Murrrland, where crabs are a staple summertime fewd. The spiny weird things that stick out of your crab’s rib cage (can you call that a rib cage?) are lungs. They aren’t “dead man’s fingers”. They don’t need a cockney euphemism.

Last summer, more than 300 chefs and retail seafood managers took a field trip to Chesapeake waters to see a booming blue crab population, and get on board with buying from the source as a part of the “True Blue” program run by Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources. Basically, the state’s formal ‘Respect Our Crabs, chefs!’ program. That’s how you do crabs. You love them, visit them, squish around with them, and suck every sweet morsel of their briny flesh until your whole face is sticky. Then, if you need any pointers, you find someone from Maryland.

For the totally harmless video that sparked my homesick rage, here ya go:

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