Crab Love and Memories

I’ve been a crab lover for as far back as I can remember.

As a native Marylander, I grew up eating hard-shelled crabs plucked straight from the Chesapeake Bay.

You could say steamed crabs are in my blood and my affinity for this particular seafood is tied to very strong childhood memories.

crabs in a basket

My grandmother used to get them by the bushel and cook them herself in a large black speckled pot.

She would season them to perfection and the aroma of seasoned crabs steaming would fill the entire house.

To this day whenever I smell Old Bay seasoning, I can’t help but think of the childhood crab feasts we enjoyed on my family’s farm. 

crab shells

My grandmother would pile the cooked crabs onto a newspaper-covered picnic table and in front of our eager hands.

I remember the table was shaded by a century-old oak tree… and we would dive into those crabs with delight.

Everyone eats crabs their own way and I always ate the thick thumb-size crab legs first before moving on to the main body.

The meat was even tastier when dipped into a special sauce my grandmother whipped up from a combination of mayo, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and a pinch of sugar.

It was good eating and great times with family.

clean crab shells

After everyone had their fill, I remember sitting often for an additional few hours helping my grandmother pick out crab meat for use in her signature stuffed-baked crabs.

Instead of using crab shaped dishes, my grandma would use whole crab shells.

She would clean the shells and then stuff them with the culled crab meat and additional seasonings with capers… and then off to the oven they went.

They always baked up so beautifully and the meat was tender, buttery golden with a lightly crisp exterior and oh-so savory.

I’ve tried to duplicate that stuffed-baked crab recipe over the years, to no avail.

My grandmother definitely had a special touch in more ways than one with recipes and so much more.

steamed crabs

These days, my own kids shudder at the sight of a steamed crab being opened for eating.

They just don’t get it. But I still do. 

Crab season 2018 is sadly winding down in my neck of the woods and I’m sorry to say, I haven’t eaten any at all this summer.

There’s still a little time to remedy that.

When it comes to steamed crabs, I have a special affinity for steamed crabs in no small part thanks to those wonderful youthful memories.

I guess, you can always take the girl out of crab country… but you can never truly take the crab love out of the girl.

Thanks for stopping by.

See you back here next time. 

 

 

  • Joy Medley

    It’s been a while since I’ve visited your site but I’m glad I stumbled upon this post. I have lived in Maryland all my life. Crabs are to Maryland what apple pie is to America. We got live crabs nearly every weekend when I was a little girl. My dad cooked them outside in a makeshift stove and crabpot. When I was a little girl and spending the day with my cousin, I called my parents to tell them her older brother was cooking crabs in the house! I had never seen such and as a proper 10 year old girl I had to tell on him! lol The first time my parents bought cooked crabs I was so disappointed (to this day, I’m leery of crabs bought on the roadside).

    I’m a bit late since your original post and my comment. Not sure if you heard about the reaction to a PETA sign in Baltimore urging us to stop eating crabs. The sign was put near one of their most popular crabhouses and the locals weren’t having it!

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Hi Joy, you sound like a real Marylander.
      I have not heard of the PETA protests but I can’t imagine folks giving up eating crabs-lol.
      I recently had a few crabcakes from Fresh Market and they just weren’t the same.
      Nothing compares to Maryland, freshly steamed crabs for sure.
      Have a wonderful week and thanks for sharing your recollections.

  • Diane

    Just today my friend who grew up in her early years in Maryland crabbing (before moving to Africa) posted on FB that she wanted to know the recipe. An order of Maryland crabs was winging its way to their home in Michigan and she couldn’t wait to sink her teeth into the goodness. But… steam? beer? vinegar? how much? The answers she received seemed a little vague. Have you shared the recipe here?

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Hi Diane.
      I haven’t shared any crab recipes here yet because I just don’t know them.
      My grandmother knew all the best ingredients and measurements and I don’t think her “recipe” are written down anywhere.
      I’m inspired to do a little digging/research from family members to see if they have more insight on what my grandmother did.

  • Kristi Parker

    I was recently in Maryland for the first time. Blue crabs with Old Bay Seasoning was new to me, very good. I’m from the West coast, where we enjoy Dungeness crabs. Myself, daughters and grandchildren all enjoy crab feed memories (our Thanksgiving tradition too). It’s the gathering of family and working for your meal which keeps you at the table longer, enjoying and sharing stories.
    Thanks for your post, I hope you get home for a visit soon!

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Thank you so much for your sweet comment, Kristi.
      You definitely hit the nail on the head.
      Also, that’s so interesting that you enjoy crab feasts during the Thanksgiving season.
      I would eat freshly steamed crabs all year if I could-lol.
      Happy day to you.

  • Marisa Franca @ All OUr Way

    Such beautiful memories, Lisa. Thank you for sharing those sweet memories with your grandmother. I wish I’d known my grandparents but they all died way before I was born. When we go to Saint Simons Island, GA, I love watching them bring up the blue crabs. They bring up baskets and baskets of those crabs. And those sea creatures LOVE chicken necks. Hope you have a chance to enjoy your Maryland crabs. Have a great weekend! Sending hugs!!

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Thanks, Marisa.
      I’m going to try to get back home for some Maryland crabs before the season ends.
      Indeed, those crabs are a brilliant blue before that hot water hits them and turns them delicious orange.
      I hope you have a great week too.

  • Patty

    My hubby is from Baltimore. He brought me home to meet his parents and he ran around to a bar to get a steamed crab and I screamed when I saw it We got married but never ate crabs when we visited (we live in Connecticut). Three years later I was pregnant with our first son and my hubby said he needed crabs. I went and when he cracked one open and gave it to me, I was hooked. That “child” will be 44 next month. Unfortunately we don’t get down to Maryland and we said this summer we would go but I got sick so this year is off. He did make me streamed shrimp the other day and they were good. You brought back a lot of good memories. Thank you.

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      You’re so welcome, Patty.
      What a fun backstory. Your reaction sounds a lot like my kids’ reaction to crabs.
      Makes you wonder how something so ugly can taste so good, right?
      It’s not hard to get hooked once you get a taste of that crab meat-lol.
      Thanks so much for sharing your story and I hope you get back to the Maryland area next year.
      For the record, steamed shrimp sound good to me too.

  • Karen

    I have the same memories and they live on today. I make crab gumbo like my grandmother and mother did with any left over. I know what you mean about grandmother’s recipes! I’ve tried duplicating some of my grandmother’s recipes but they never are quite the same. I inherited her recipe box only to discover it held just 2 recipes…Georgia hush puppies and homemade bbq sauce. Her generation learned to cook without recipes which I think is why they were such wonderful cooks 🙂

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Karen, you are so right.
      My grandmother very rarely ever looked at a printed recipe.
      And those Georgia hush puppies and barbecue sauce sounds amazing.
      Too bad that recipe box wasn’t filled with the recipes you remembered and loved.

  • Jennifer Carroll

    Gorgeous photos as always! I’m not a big crab fan but I have so many fond memories of crab picking parties with my family at the beach. thank you for taking me back to those “good old days!” I love the way your Grandma would “present” the crab – charming!!! 🙂

    xoxo, Jennifer

  • Elaine Tutman

    I love the photos and story. Your grandmother (my mother) would freeze a batch of her crab cakes for a special treat on Christmas morning at her traditional breakfast or brunch. The crabs were caught by her husband and prepared just as you remembered it. Knowing her love of crabs, he delighted in making her happy bringing in 2-3 bushels of freshly caught crabs. Thanks for the memories. Love, Nana Banana

  • Jeanne

    What a lovely tribute to the Maryland crab…I’m from Long Island…my affinity rests with lobster…steamed…nothing on it…delicious. Now living in the desert, I miss it so. Thanks for the wonderful memories. 🙂

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      My pleasure, Jeane.
      It’s nice to read that so many people have similar memories and experiences.
      By the way, as much as I love steamed crabs… I’d never turn a good lobster down for a dinner date either-lol.
      Happy day to you.

  • Lois Harry

    After living in Maryland for 35 yr we miss blue crabs after moving back to Florida. Wouldn’t think you would have such a hard time finding them in Daytona Beach, would you?

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Lois, you’re a lady after my own heart.
      I’m surprised you’re having a hard time finding them.
      So many waterways, fisheries, habitats, etc. are threatened by environmental issues these days. I wonder if that has anything to do with it?
      I hope you can get your hands on some.
      Happy day to you from a fellow Marylander (once a Marylander, always a Marylander-even if you live in Florida-lol).

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