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The Summertime Blues, or How Not to Cook Mussels on the Grill

How to Eat a Blue Claw Crab, and Other Things I Learned at the Beach

I’m back from vacation, much more rejuvenated, a bit more well-rested, and slightly wiser. Here are a few things I discovered.

If you put trimmed asparagus stalks in water (as if they are flowers) and let them stand there for a few hours, they freshen up and become almost as rigid as the day they were picked.  (A few weeks ago, in the New York Times, Harold McGee explained more of the vegetable’s amazing tricks).

If you soak black beans for more than one night, which I’ve done many times at home without causing a problem, do not leave them out on the counter, put them in the refrigerator. Otherwise, they will mold, become fetid, and when it comes time to dispose of them you will regret the moment you let them linger.

If you want to tease your sister, don’t do it while she’s hosting the extended family for a crazed night of blue claw crab eating. Her retort will be as sharp and fast as the crustacean’s claw.

We had a grand time trying to eat the crabs. My brother-in-law John grew up in Texas, catching them as a kid and cooking them up at will. He volunteered to pick up a bunch of pre-cooked crabs and teach us how to get at the meat inside. The bright red crabs came covered in salty seasoning and packed in old cardboard boxes marked for crackers and the like. Newspaper was spread down on multiple tables. Last minute runs to the supermarket were made to get the proper equipment.

Nearly the entire clan gathered to join in the spectacle: brother, sisters, brothers-in-laws, the grandmother, and just about as many children—cousins all—as there were crabs. It was a bit chaotic. John demonstrated how to break of the shell and get at the sweet meat, but much of the information was lost in the crowded din. Many of us did only a bit better than the guy in this video.


With a little practice, though, we finally got the hang of things. Plastic garbage bags were passed around to collect the shells as we ate. Two groups of eaters coalesced—those who couldn’t get enough of the crabs and those who couldn’t wait for dessert. I ended up at the table with the first group, John, my sister Eileen, and my brother Jim. John reviewed the finer points of cracking the crab and our collective piles of broken shells grew and grew. Slowly our ranks thinned. In the end, Jim was the only one eating. He must have had a dozen himself.

Here’s a more detailed tutorial on how to get the most out of a blue-claw crab.

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