Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Crabmas

I haven't been blogging for a few days because we went to Ft. Lauderdale last weekend for a little family reunion.  It's a rare occasion when my four siblings and I all congregate in one place with my parents.  Unlike most normal families, we don't descend on a park or a beach and have a big cookout, where everyone brings a covered dish.   Oh no, not this displaced group of Marylanders.  When we manage to herd the group together, we get crabby and haul in crustaceans by the dozens. 

This year's count totalled 12 dozen.  My Brothers Crab have taken to calling the get-together "Crabmas," complete with crab lights strung around the dining room, with a few Christmas items thrown in for good measure and holiday ambience.   It makes for an eclectic, yet festive, atmosphere.

It all began several years ago as a birthday crab bash for my brother.  With each successive year, this Old Bay fest has attracted different family members, friends and relatives.  This year, in addition to our immediate clan, we welcomed our crab-loving, Baltimore-born cousin and her sweet daughter, a new crabeater extraordinaire.  It's always fun to indoctrinate a newbie, especially when she's a willing participant who dives right in.  Must be in the blood.

Here's a peek at Crabmas Day: 

The morning of the party, my brothers round up the crabs from one of a couple of local seafood purveyors.  My father is in charge of worrying about whether the locals will have enough crabs and whether my brother's driveway will accommodate a million cars.  My mother worries about additional food to have on hand for the non-crabeaters, like herself, although rarely does anyone eat anything other than crabs.  This does not prevent her from cooking and transporting a turkey breast, a spiral-sliced ham and a crock-load of chili.

The cooking begins after everyone arrives at Birthday Brother's house.  My other brother is Steamer-in-Chief.   He starts cooking the live crabs after everyone arrives because it doesn't take long to steam crabs and he has a method.  He fires up a few turkey cooker elements and puts those crab pots right on top, where you would normally place the vat of oil in which to fry the turkey.  He heavily seasons the crabs with Old Bay and pepper because we like our lips burning and our cuticles on fire. 

This is where the ice-cold beer comes in handy.  Beer is an integral part of any crab gathering, and for some unknown reason, it's fun to drink cheap beer with crabs.  The Brothers Crab ice it down and place coolers tableside, making them easily accessible to grimy, crab-encrusted hands.   For the underage set who eye the beer longingly, there is a cooler of water and soft drinks.

Once cooked, the crabs are up for grabs in big buckets placed at intervals on a long newspaper-covered table.  Several rolls of paper towels are interspersed along the crab route.  Hours of hammering, picking, intellectually stimulating conversation about our most-hated Food Network celebrities, and beer guzzling ensue.

No brews for these three characters, who outlasted the oldsters by only a few crabs.

The evening culminates with a decadent dessert smorgasbord.  This one consisted of cheesecake, key lime pie, pineapple upside down cake, and chocolate layer birthday cake.   A sweet treat and coffee are a must when ending a spicy crab feast.  Watch for tomorrow's post about the chocolate cake. 

Crab feast cleanup is a breeze at Birthday Brother's tiled house.  He wheels in a gigantic garbage can, and the men do a wrap-and-roll routine with the newspaper, gathering up every bit of feeler, claw, shell, and lung that has been scraped off in a frenzy of seafood gluttony, the pillage piled high on the table. 

The entire mess gets dumped into the can, leaving the garbage men to wonder what the heck went on at the house over the weekend, and probably leading them to put a hex on the place. 

Have you ever smelled crab guts that have been baking in a garbage can in 90-degree heat for a few days?  I am sure they will be counting the days till next Crabmas - just like the rest of us.


  1. hey, may I come next time?? :)

  2. Monica (Maryland native and friend of Simone)August 24, 2010 at 11:19 AM

    Great blog! This really makes me miss summers in MD, out on the deck with friends and neighbors, sitting around a table of crabs and beer all day. Now I want to have a crab feast!

  3. Thanks, Monica from Maryland. Glad you can relate.