Monday, April 03, 2006

CrabFeast 2006

It is important to feast.

Other than the bland monotony of most Thanksgivings and Christmases and Hanukah's, feasting is a lost art. Where people used to have a big social eating harangue, they now go out for a quick drink. Screw that. I want to eat seasonal delicacies in large quantites over the course of a half-day to celebrate the zeniths of my life. And I want to do this with friends and family. And I want to make an unholy mess- leave behind a mountain of shells and carcasses and detritus. I don't want to celebrate my friendships with goddamned brunch.

I want good iced tea, strong limeade, hoppy near-beer (I'm a teetotaler). I demand a dozen different piquant sauces to smear on whatever I am eating. I relish not using the sauces if the food is fresh and good on its own. Give me oysters carefully cleaned by my own hands and opened the same way. Let me lick the oyster liquor off my palm. I want crab boil seasoning jammed up my fingernails and covering my arms up to my shoulders in a gesso of celery seed and chili. Potato salad with my hands and cornbread with my fingers. Let everything get cold- it tastes better anyway Let me pound away with friends at the carapaces of crustaceans, spit out bits of shell, not worry about the condition of my butter-stained pants. Let me huddle in the kitchen, after its cold outside, and eat pie standing up with good friends and a good wife. Let me open oysters for my chums and my sweet wife. Let me tip one oyster to my mouth and give the mineral-tinged liquor to my pup. I want to feast continuously and slowly, talking and smiling, smelling the breeze and the waft of dank seafood from a giant pot. Invite the neighbors, call the kids over, give the bums a crab. Let's steam some Maryland blues and while the day away.

Feasting on the East coast near the ocean means either clambakes or crab feasts. If you do not know an old, salty man who puts on these feasts using a rusty pickup and worn implements, you must do it yourself. For a similar tradition, see the section in Joseph Miller's "Up In the Old Hotel" about steak feasting in Tammany-era New York City. See also Euell Gibbons' works on wild seafood gathering.

Maine Avenue Fish Wharf

The DC fisherman's wharf offers good seafood and good prices. It is one of the few indigenous food markets left in DC and it is a rare gem. There is great bustle and throngs of people: all great signs of a fish market. The purveyors know their trade You *must* know what you are buying, though. The difference between the regular "no-name" oysters and the sparkling, green Chincoteagues is beyond striking. The sad-looking tuna and salmon is just as sad as the flesh sold in your supermarket (Whole Foods excepted).

Much of the seafood is merely thawed from a frozen state. While frozen seafood is often quite good, I can get much of that stuff at my supermarket and prefer to get it at Trader Joe's. The real reason to visit a seafood market is to get the oddities, the easily spoiled, the animate. The range of clams at Maine Ave. is great. From giant chowder clams to tiny cockles, with black clams (See also Miller's book re: black clams) a rare favorite.

I didn't see catch tags on the striped bass, so I sincerely question their credentials. Other local fish looked good.

Why a crab feast?

As a final celebration before the guilt of Final Exam season descends upon us law students, my former study group partners and we decided to have a good old fashioned crab and oyster feast.

Lee drove and made a near-unholy Key Lime Pie, Rob made amazing sweet potato salad, Nate provided beverages. Keiko came later and smiled a lot. Peanuts was happy to eat some carrots and bark at the feasters.

A half bushel of Chincoteagues, unscrubbed

Rob working with the local crabs

Me with my usual dumb look and some food in one hand

Just before the crabs had crab boil dumped in their faces
Crabs cooking, Lee Hepner holding a suave court
Rob's absolutely excellent sweet potato salad
First batch of crab...underdone and needing a second steam (not dark shells)
Nate trims a mean lawn
Lee is a man of precision and rare candor
A regular shore feast
Lee opens his first oyster
The feast wears on, Rob does not tire, he wants the meat
Peanuts is sore afraid of shellfish
the key to a sucessful feast is a wash bucket laced with vinegar...as well as cheap champagne


the old mountain of detritus

1 Comments:

Blogger trebor said...

2 minor provisos regarding Crab Feast 2007:

1. I need to see Peanuts fight one of those crabs, to the death!

2. Can't get enough of that mower. Lets bring it back. (I'll also be over to mow later this week).

11:34 PM  

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