A friend bought me a crab this weekend. Coming from Maryland, I’m used to crabs as small feisty things with a blue tinge to their shells. The gifted crab I got was wrapped up in a plastic bag and weighed a ton. Let me tell you, it’s alarming to set a plastic grocery bag on the counter and to hear it scrabbling and rattling around. I put it in the fridge overnight and each time I bumped it with my hand it rustled back. Sunday was the cooking day and my wife delegated the cooking task to me while she did the picking. When I opened up the bag to check on our houseguest, he extended his eye stalks and peered back at me.
I gave him (or her, I’m no crab sex expert) a cold water bath and a final walk around on our kitchen floor. Something made me feel like the warden on death row, allowing the prisoner a last meal and stretch of the legs. Our crab, a Dungeness, seemed a bit sluggish but clicked its mandibles and stretched its claws a few times. Maybe it was reacting to the dizzying pattern on our kitchen floor. It made my mandibles click the first time I saw it.
Then I dropped it in a pot of boiling water. I’d braced myself for some panicked scrambling, legs clacking against the sides of the pot, some kind of alien screaming, but it just tucked its claws in and turned bright red in a matter of seconds. Its fuzzy mandibles, segmented shell, and eye stalks all reminded me of the prawns from District 9, but I felt an affinity for this creature, however alien-looking. Taking life is part of eating, dear readers, and doing the deed yourself once in a while reminds you that life eats other life, simple as that. Even if you’re vegan, you’re taking life to sustain your own and if the plastic-wrapped sterility of supermarket food is the wool pulled over your eyes, lift it up and kill your own food so you truly understand the cycle of food, of life. Here’s our crab steaming in the sink, about to become food.
I’ll give loud applause and credit to my wife for picking all the meat from this huge thing and for making delicious Asian crab cakes with Sriracha aioli and stir fried bok choy and snow peas. Thank you, crab, for your delicious meat. I hope we did your life justice by a quick compassionate death and respectful preparation of food.