Saturday, March 2, 2019

All Mallet, No Knife

The problem with eating crabs with lesser pickers is timing.

Oh, sure, we can all pick up our first crab at the same moment, but chances are awfully good I'm going to finish first. And not because I'm particularly trying or even because I'm the hungriest. It's just that I pick crabs with a speed that would get me a job at a crab picking plant if I wanted one.

Which I don't.

The whole reason I'm eating crabs in the first place is because I took the train to visit a friend and her main squeeze in Eastport, arriving to find things white because of an early morning snow shower. Driving to her house from the train station, she mentioned that it was restaurant week in Annapolis so she'd made reservations for the next two nights but left tonight open.

That sounded like an opening to me, so I said what I usually say when I visit here: I can always go to Cantler's and eat crabs. Especially in March when it's been months since I last had crabs. But because she'd been there a couple of weeks ago and they hadn't had any crabs, she called to confirm that crustaceans were in the house. The only size they had was large which was plenty good enough for me.

For her, spoiled by the near-constant availability of even larger crabs, it was a matter of making do with what they had. 

The three of us drove to the riverside restaurant in a steady rain, past parked buses that had ferried athletes to the Naval Academy, arriving after the dinner rush had ended. There were exactly four bar stools open and we took over three of them.

"Slow Ride" was blasting from the speakers, causing Boyfriend to look at me and ask, "Is this Foghat?" Sure was. For the rest of the night, it was all '70s all the time. Kind of like Cantler's itself.

But the big news was that they'd run out of large crabs and now had super size crabs. Super, so even more monstrous than the extra larges I'd had on previous visits. Apparently they grow 'em big in Louisiana this time of year.

That's when the disparity in eating began. My friend has been cracking crabs for some 30+ years, yet she was barely halfway through her first crab when she looked over and saw me closing in on finishing my second. "You must be hungry!" she said, but the truth was I'm just a faster picker than she is.

She didn't take kindly to me saying that, but as I pointed out, she didn't grow up having her Dad examine her crab shells and critiquing her picking skills like I had.

The true slow poke was her man who had wisely begun with a dozen Orchard Point oysters to lay a foundation so he wouldn't starve to death. I'd slurped one, mainly out of curiosity after learning that they were raised on the Eastern Shore.

And they had a nice brininess to them, but they were no Old Saltes, I can tell you that much.

My friend did her best to help her man open, dissect and access his crabs, but between inexperience, large fingers and a snail's pace, the man was many crabs behind us and dropping further back all the time. He augmented somewhat with hushpuppies, but the going was slow.

Once I finished eating, I had little to do but watch them eat. Eventually, I killed some time by going to the bathroom to wash my hands twice but when I returned, they were still at it. When I spotted a pile of claws in front of her, I inquired if any of them were mine.

Wrapping her arm protectively around the claws, she informed me, "These are all mine, not yours" and set about cracking them. I glanced over to see how he was doing, only to spot another pile of claws and a full crab.

It seemed only kind to help, so I asked for his claws, assuring him I wouldn't eat a bite. Claw by claw, I opened them and handed them over to him for consumption, for which he was mighty grateful. He seemed to think my kindness was some kind of big deal.

Not so, I told him, that's just how I learned to eat crabs. Growing up, my Mom refused to pick crabs, so when we had a crab feast, everyone - Dad and my five sisters - would each pick a crab  to donate to her. She'd then make herself crabcakes from our efforts.

So picking a little extra for a non-picker or slow picker is just part of my crustacean DNA. No big deal, in other words.

Where I come from, it's the least a girl can do when she gets taken out for supers on a snowy March night.

Even if I did have to wash my hands a third time.

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