Thursday, September 26, 2013
Consider the Crabs, or, Farewell Fond Summer
The other weekend, I survived the tumult of the bus down south to the Delaware shore and spent a delightfully lazy weekend with close childhood family friends. Spending time with incredible parental figures, who have known you since you were essentially a pile of rapidly replicating cells gestating, brings great comfort but, notably, is also relaxing because, in short, they are not actually your parents. Potential opportunities for discussing financially planning for the future or career trajectories averted. Their home was beautiful, the air pristine, and the sky a sharp and startling blue; ideal for a jaunt away from my small apartment and Brooklyn neighborhood.
As a Baltimore native, the ritualistic dining procession of the steamed crab feast is learned young, a cultural development stage wedged between acclimation to typical kindergarten pedagogical environments and navigating the sexual tension of sweat perfumed middle school corridors. Generally, there are long tables, set up outside in the late summer sun, carefully covered in long sheets of brown paper, a scattering of wooden mallets, a gathering of family and friends, and, the pinnacle, a mountain of boiled red crustaceans, tangled claws and shells, drenched in delicious Old Bay seasoning. This is not a meal, it is a social event, for many, the social event of the waning lazy days of summer. Picking the crab is a delicate and precise process, a blend of art and science; a novice is guided by some sage tribal elder, who demonstrates how to twist each spindly leg, how to crack the claws to preserve the sweet white meat. Depending on the mentor, there are inner body bits that are adroitly discarded, or consumed greedily as a succulent delicacy. The crab feast is a marathon of gorging, learning, talking, joking, laughing.
Having resided in New Jersey for a few years and now in New York, in essence away from the Land of Pleasant Living, I had not indulged in a crab feast in years; in fact, before the other weekend, I could not even remember the last time I had enjoyed this Chesapeake Bay staple. Without hesitation, my childhood best friend, current good friend, Sarah, and I informed her parents that the weekend simply must include at least one dozen crabs. They acquiesced, with little need for the power of persuasion. So, after relaxing on the chilled but sunny beach late on Saturday morning, we traveled to a rustic seafood joint on the bay, open and breezy with broad views of the surrounding grasses and herons. Armed with napkins, cocktails, and a small arsenal of hush puppies, we attacked our crabs, meticulous, driven, and gorged slowly, devouring each limb, leaving no crevice unclean.
Despite what the derivative and trite appropriation of the title may suggest, I will not contemplate the metaphysical or aesthetic implications of the history of boiling and eating these delicious creatures. Another time, perhaps. Like the crab feasts of my youth, summer, at the onset, seems to stretch forward infinitely, without limit; at its inevitable close, sated, I still feel a tad somber, wincing, already nostalgic at its end.