The Maryland blue crab is one of nature's miracles. It is both a meal and a puzzle box. To eat a steamed blue crab, take the following steps:
- Remove the crab's claws and legs. Set these aside, because the main bulk of the meat is in the body and that's getting cold even as we speak.
- Flip the crab onto its back. There will be a vaguely triangular crotch plate on the bottom. Pry this up and off.
- Flip the crab again, then rip the top of the shell (the red part) off and set it aside. This will make a handy receptacle for the inedible bits or, if you wish, a dandy skull cap.
- Take a plastic or metal knife and cut the crab's face off. It is not essential to wear this as a mask. It would only be a mustache anyway.
- Remove the gill meat (sometimes called ladyfingers), as they have been filtering the crap in the Chesapeake Bay and will taste terrible.
- Remove the guts from what's left of the torso. There is some disgusting yellow goop in here that you can use as a sort of sauce.
- If you're from out of state you probably excused yourself from the table a few steps ago.
- Break the torso in half. Squeeze, split, or break apart each half to get at those precious few ounces of delicious crab meat.
- Completists can, at this point, crack open the claws with a cracker or mallet to get a few more ounces of meat. The remaining legs should be discarded unless you want the meat for a recipe, in which case a rolling pin will squeeze it out. And if you're in a hurry, foist the claws off on some sucker and go after another torso.
A puzzle, a meal and a light workout. Who could ask for more?
* * *
The sideshow at the Crab Feast is the campaigning, at least in an election year. Theoretically nobody is supposed to be campaigning, but who's going to enforce that? Especially if a former governor like Robert Ehrlich turns up to shake a few hands.
We didn't get to see Ehrlich (he turned up after we'd left), but we did get a candidate for lieutenant governor, who shall remain nameless (not that you won't be able to work out who I'm talking about if you really want to). He and his self-proclaimed mouthpiece walked up to our table and introduced themselves, at which point Mouthpiece bragged that the team had just gotten Sarah Palin's endorsement.
Now let's be clear: Maryland is very much a blue state, especially off the Eastern Shore. An endorsement from Sarah Palin is not necessarily a liability, but you can't lead with the damned thing.
The Candidate explained that he was a former Marine and a former FBI agent, and that he and his running mate intend to fix the budget by cleaning up fraud and waste in the state government. At this point the trickster god convinced me to ask the Candidate if he was going to cut spending or raise taxes.
The Candidate looked at my second head with a blank expression. He hadn't quite caught that, he explained.
"Are you planning to cut spending or raise taxes?" I asked again. The Candidate stared at me again, then raised a hand, explained that he had a bad ear, and asked me again what my question was.
I told him not to worry about it, and he excused himself.
(For the record, according to the campaign website the answer was "cut spending", sort of. The site promised no tax increases, and that the state's senior leadership would take a 25% pay cut.)