Whoever it was first ate a blue crab was a hungry soul indeed.
There is nothing about the critter would indicate it would be worth the time and effort to dodge its menacing pincers and bust through its crusty shell to see if there might be something edible inside. To make its consumption more fraught, by most accounts the thing must be cooked alive or it’s likely to cause all kinds of unpleasantness.
So they are steamed (Maryland) or boiled (Louisiana) alive, which seems would send the PETA crowd into a frenzy, but apparently not enough of a frenzy to forestall human predators from eating them by the millions. And how, exactly, did someone figure out the only way to eat them was to steam them live? It would seem some families would have had to donate a few members to those early culinary experiments.
“Oh yes, that was your uncle Philmore. Ate a crab. Died. That was before we figured out the steam thing.”
All that said, I ate my first Maryland Blue Crab in Bethany Beach a few days back, unceremoniously dumped on a plain brown wrapping paper table cloth between Tracy and I, covered in Old Bay Seasoning. It was delicious. And messy. Very messy. Hence the brown paper. Easy to roll up and toss.
Cold beer seems an integral part of the experience, and that too weighs in its favor. Usually if Tracy ever orders a beer, I end up finishing it, one of the benefits of having a beer with Tracy. This time she took it to the bottom while it was still cold, chasing down the spicy seasoned crab. Not a drop left for me. She recounted many happy family occasions growing up in Maryland, crab shells piled high on the table. Of course they were much less expensive then, but wasn’t most everything?
Tracy said that as a young girl she could easily eat a couple of dozen blue crabs at one sitting and I figured at the rate I was picking meat out of my crab that would take me about a day and a half. Also, at just under $10 each, it’d be cheaper to feed the kids filet mignon. Just sayin.’
I do think it’s a fair question to ask if energy expended in picking the meat from the many chambers and hidden recesses of a blue crab is actually surpassed by the energy gained, but methinks it’s really more about the socializing than it is about the crab.
I have to confess that in my case, the crab drew first blood. I had barely gotten through the first few layers of shell and claw and chamber before one sharp crust of crab sliced into my index finger. But I soldiered on was rewarded with many succulent white chunks of seasoned meat.
We did find a crab shack on the way out of Maryland where we could buy them for $40/dozen.
So we did.