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BOILED OR STEAMED? Why I Don’t Eat Crabs Outside Maryland
One of the most surprising things I learned after moving to the South is how people prepare their crabs. Down here, everyone boils everything from crabs to crawfish! That blew my mind. I grew up just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. Up north, we steam our crabs. That way, the flavor doesn’t get lost in the water. Bay. I grew up eating these crabs, and honestly, no other blue crab can compare. They have this sweet, firm crab meat that crabs from any other waters just don’t live up to. I’ll admit, it’s not just where the crabs come from that makes them delicious. Great crab is all about the way it’s prepared. The Maryland way to prepare crab is to get a steamer pot with a big wooden rack at the bottom and fill the pot with half water, half beer. Then we put the crabs on the rack, toss in a handful of rock salt and a generous helping of Old Bay seasoning, and put the lid on top. Once the crabs are done, we line a picnic table with newspaper and dump the pile of steamed crabs out of the pot onto the middle of the table. That’s when the family gathers around with mallets and starts picking crabs. In my family, one of the rites of passage is learning the right way to pick a crab. We would even have a competition to see who could get the biggest back fin without it breaking. It’s really tricky to get the meat out of the shell just right Maryland is well-known for the blue crabs that come out of the Chesapeake
without it breaking into bits. My family has handed down the crab-picking strategy for generations. This isn’t a technique you can pick up on by reading about it online; it’s something you can only learn by doing it. I learned how to pick crab when I was pretty young, but I kept my skills a secret for years because my aunts and uncles would always just give me big pieces of picked-out crab meat. “In my family, one of the rites of passage is learning the right way to pick a crab.” To this day, I will never eat crab meat outside of Maryland. Plenty of restaurants claim to have “Maryland-style” crab cakes, but they’re never the same. I’ve learned through years of disappointment that there’s no good blue crab outside of Maryland. My wife doesn’t agree with me. She grew up in New Orleans with big crawfish boils where the family would gather together to break bread — or, in this case, crawfish. There’s an ongoing debate in my house in regard to which food is better: steamed crab or boiled crawfish. I think the answer is pretty clear. Looking back on it, I realize it’s the community aspect that makes those memories stand out for me. Yes, blue
crab steamed the Maryland way is a culinary masterpiece, but these events were about more than food. Summer cookouts were a time for the whole family to get together to laugh, connect, and really enjoy each other’s company. No matter what’s on the menu, food has a way of bringing people together. As we close out the summer, whether you prefer your crabs boiled or steamed, I hope everyone is able to create some memories at one more summer cookout.
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