A Lesson on Crustaceans

by Ben Miller

This is a picture of a blue crab. It comes from the Chesapeake Bay. (I’m not sure what the Maryland bay is either, but perhaps someone who isn’t from my home state could enlighten me.)

This is a picture of properly prepared Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. You will note, that there is in fact, some Old Bay on top of it. (Note: I’m using Old Bay here as a catch-all term for the seasoning that goes on top. You could just use Old Bay, but there are other spices one could add as well.) Now, it seems like some other members of the IFA don’t really get the purpose of Old Bay. By coating the crab with it, you are supposed to get some on your hands while cracking it open. As a result, when you eat the meat, you get a little bit of Old Bay on it, giving it a nice spicy and delicious flavor. I could understand how Adler, whose palette is apparently flavor (read: spice) averse, could not enjoy this, but to argue that crabs should just be served with butter and lemon is not only blasphemous, but incorrect as well. In fact, I have never ever dipped my crabs in butter (there’s no need to, you’ve got Old Bay).

You know what does get dipped in butter though? This guy below:

And based on his price, you know who eats him?

31 responses to “A Lesson on Crustaceans

  1. Marylander

    Ben Miller FTW!

  2. oh no. noooooo.

    THANK YOU.

  3. The lobster angle is a good point… as expensive as crabs are these days, they are infinitely more accessible to the average person since you can go to a pier with a bag of chicken necks and some string and come away with a couple dozen crabs in an afternoon.

    Certainly to me as a kid, and 100x more to my dad who grew up on the water near Annapolis… there is nothing fancy about crabs. Sorta like how in South Carolina pretty much anybody can get amazing oysters, that a New Yorker would sell their first born for, by the bushel for nothing.

  4. You know what’s fun? Having lumps of spicy granules all over your hands from lumps of old bay that don’t really add much flavor to the meat. The granules can’t easily be wiped off, and when one goes to scratch their nose, a pleasant horrifying burning sensation envelops the face! Super! Oh, and the meat of Maryland crab! The meat! It’s a whole 5 ounces of glory, just as much as one can find in ONE good King or Alaskan crab arm.

    When someone invites you to a Maryland crab bake – they’re @#$%ing with you. It’s like saying that “when your hand is bigger than your face, you have cancer” and then bap-ing their hand into their face.

    Get yourself some Alaskan or King crab, melted butter and garlic instead.

  5. Oh crap. Less is not more. Previous comment o mine was meant to support Ben Miller’s post, not Byrd’s comment.

    I get that folks may not care for Old Bay, but I don’t get being critical of traditional foods served traditional ways.

  6. Oh, and fried Gulf of Mexico soft – shell crab is infinitely superior in any way to the nastiness in the mid – Atlantic…

    … the same reason Eskimos eat blubber and all…

  7. Light Rail Tycoon

    Right now, here in Maine, I could walk for 5 minutes, and come home with lobster at 4.99.

  8. Dude. They’re the same species.

  9. Sadly in Baltimore, outside the height of the season crabs (males, anyway) are now more expensive than lobster pound for pound (lb of meat, not shell+guts). This is a pretty transient phenomenon (lobster is way overproduced right now and crab is scarce), but the Rich Uncle Pennybags barb doesn’t really score.

    @Byrd – we eat soft-shell, too; it’s in season, cheap, and delicious.

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  11. Soft shells can be great, but saying that king or Alaskan crab legs are anywhere in the same range as delicious as blue crabs is just plain insane. They taste more like imitation sushi crab than actual delicious, silky, rich blue crab meat.

    And yes, picking crabs is a ton of work. Your hands get cut up, the old bay stings, you spend a lot of time to get a little bit of meat. But that’s the entire point! Earning your dinner, getting messy with your loved ones, and throwing back some cheap beer are all part of the delightful, rewarding, beloved process of picking crabs. It is my favorite thing to do with clothes on. Yes, I grew up in the mid Atlantic. It’s tradition, and one I’m incredibly happy to have. It’s a shame you don’t enjoy it, but that’s ok. More crabs for me.

    Oh, and also, a proper crab feast is not a “crab bake.” You steam crabs. You bake clams.

  12. @Zach and Light Rail Tycoon

    From the perspective of someone who grew up in near the Chesapeake Bay I think the “Rich Uncle Pennybags” characterization of lobsters and drawn butter holds. After all, anybody who wants can go down to the water with a net and some chicken necks and catch as many crabs as they can carry… or try to anyway… without even needing a license.

    Obviously the perspective of a Mainer is quite different.

  13. @J.W.

    Fair enough; if I were to try that near here I’d be afraid that the ones I’d catch would have a dozen legs. Actually, that’d just be extra delicious.

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  15. OMG – lobsters, soft shell, hard shell, alaskan king, cheap beer, butter, with or w/o spice….I’m dyin’ here!!! I have vacation in another week and I’m just dyin’. YOU ARE KILLING ME!!! I WANT MY SHELLFISH!!!!!

  16. Come to Maritime Canada if you want lobster; it’s about $3.50/lb now, the same as baloney. Around here you’ll find lobster in chowder, definitely in lobster rolls (at McDonald’s, too, in season, which is just wrong), but most often you get it served with melted butter and vinegar, and nothing else. Best place is to get it from a lobster pound, where it’s cooked in a bucket of water straight from the sea. Also, don’t forget there’s way more to lobster than the claws and tails; only People From Away stop at those. ;) A true lobster lover also eats the tamale!

  17. Sorry Ben. Gotta go with Spencer here. I don’t like Old Bay all that much — it covers the inherently sweet flavor of most fresh seafood. Given my druthers, I eat it unadorned or with a hint of salt and garlic.

  18. Amanda pretty much nailed this. More for the rest of us.

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