Wednesday, August 20, 2008


What would summer be without tomatoes, corn, peaches - and crabs, plenty of salty, succulent Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. My niece and her hubby live near the water and love to crab. And the rest of us love to eat crabs: what a team! Mema, the matriarch of our family, celebrates her birthday in early July (this year, the 88th), and for the last couple of years we've enjoyed a big crab feast to mark the event. This year it was about a month late, but it was worth the wait.

My niece Ashley and her hubby Drew got up at about 4 A.M., drove out to the bay, crossed the bay and set up off Kent Island. They use crab pots, and they're good at it. Half a hundred crabs later they're back in the car and on the way home. Sometime in the early afternoon the unmistakable aroma of steamed crabs begins to permeate their yard. Soon the picnic table is covered with coarse brown paper, the hammers, knives and napkins are out, the drinks appear (soon to disappear and be replaced!) and the expectant crowd surrounds the table. Then Drew, master crab cooker, opens the pot and begins to arrange the crabs on the table. There were a lot of them this year, lots of huge Jimmys heavy with yummy crab meat.

And then begins the merry clatter of a summer afternoon of crab picking, something we Marylanders know how to get into. Last summer my friend Hilda in Virginia taught me to pick crabs Northern Neck style, and I tried to demonstrate - but the crabs were so good that the lesson quickly disappeared into my mouth.
In the top picture, you see Ashley and her Mema; in the next one, left to right, Ashley, Mema and Drew; the next picture shows some of the crabs; then there are photos of remains after five stuffed Marylanders have kicked back and settled into a postprandial near coma. Boy they were good! In the last picture, nine-month old Ashton Frederick perks up as if to say "what smells so good?"

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