by Mike McHugh
Crabs are by far the most popular seafood item in Maryland. The Chesapeake Bay produces blue crabs—the same ones that inhabit the waters here. The problem in Maryland is that the demand for crabs far outstrips the Bay’s ability to supply. This has led to a Crab Crisis up there, with lines at the seafood houses extending longer than that for returns at the men’s wear department after Fathers’ Day.
Louisiana, by contrast, has extensive crab reserves, and so the state exports bushels upon bushels of the “blue gold” in order to satisfy Marylanders’ insatiable appetite for the crustacean. This has not gone un-noticed by the politicians up there, many of who have begun clamoring for Maryland to develop a plan for “crab independence”.
I’m not sure that’s really necessary, as I see little chance of Louisiana declaring a crab embargo. (The state could disrupt world affairs more effectively with a reality show embargo if that were its aim.) Further, I’m not even sure how Maryland would go about becoming crab independent. Its reserves are nearly exhausted as a result of so many crab-guzzling entrees on the menus.
The only way I see to do it would be through rationing. For example, they might only allow you to order crab soup if your sign is Cancer. That would be a very bad deal for the Scorpios, but then, they’re only one-twelfth of the electorate.
In the meantime, my old friends in Maryland continue to devour their crabs, despite soaring prices at the stands, with a bushel now running about the equivalent of an Ivy League education.
I say all of this because it puzzles me why, when I return there for visits, my friends and family insist on ordering crabs strictly for my benefit. They do not realize that this is the equivalent of my visiting Japan and being taken to eat at a McDonald’s, where I doubt there’s any “Big” in “Mac”, yet you’ll pay about what you would for a prime rib stateside.
It was par for the course on my recent trip North, my sister having made plans to pick up crabs on our first day there.
“Don’t do it on my account,” I said to her. “I just had crabs at home few weeks ago. The suckers were so big that one could have crushed a car with its claw.”
“Come on,” my sister chided.
“Well, a Ford Focus, at least,” I answered.
“Yeah, well, down there, you boil them. It’s not the same.”
That much is true. In Maryland, crabs are always steamed. I believe it’s a state law that they can’t touch liquid water at any point in cooking process. The British, who seem to boil everything, should enact such a law with regard to bread.
So, steamed crabs it was. I watched as my kinfolk happily took their mallets to the little buggers, some of which looked like they couldn’t hold their own in a fight with a crawfish.
“Don’t say anything,” I thought to myself. Many a family has been split over lesser things than crab envy.