JORDAN HRUSKA | NYT | July 12, 2009
“YOU’RE going to want the jumbos, hon,” my waitress said as she stood, pen poised over her pad, next to my unadorned pine picnic table on the crowded outdoor deck of Waterman’s crab house.
I understood the advice. There’s nothing more disheartening than picking up a steamed blue crab that looks undersize and limp, without the ballast of plenty of meat under the shell — and knowing that the minutes about to be spent cracking and picking through it will be less than amply rewarded.
But I was surprised that there were any jumbo-size crabs left at Waterman’s that evening — a warm June Friday with the kind of sunburned, jolly crowd I remembered from many a childhood pilgrimage to the crab houses of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. A swarm of hungry feasters clustered around the tables jammed on the deck, arrivals from land and sea intent on attacking their personal shares of the seasonal bounty.
Guttural charges from powerboats headed in our direction suggested that more of the hungry were en route from the Chesapeake Bay, where the calm, wobbling eddies were flashing with the day’s last rays of sun just beyond where I sat. Several larger groups of diners grabbed bottles of cheap beer from aluminum buckets and fried seafood from red plastic baskets. Nearby, in what looked like a modified gazebo, a rock band began its sound check.
I felt an elbow in my ribs, and my table neighbor offered a quick apology. Like most of the others, he was hunched over the brown paper tablecloth with arms out at both sides, manipulating the tools that replace traditional cutlery at a crab house: a wooden mallet in one hand, a paring knife in the other. His hands, like theirs, were slimy to the wrist with crab innards and spicy sludge, and like many of them, he sported an unabashedly sloppy grin. All pretense is shed at a crab house spread. Continue reading ‘The Crab Houses of Maryland’s Eastern Shore’