As you or may or may not know North Baltimore, your favorite local humor columnist (what? no, I’m talking about me) is technically not a B-more native.
Though I am kin to the great Otterbein Sugar Cookie legacy, I spent most of my childhood in Harrisonburg, VA; home of NBA great Ralph Sampson, as well as several Country Cookin' restaurants (whoooee that’s good eatin’).
As an immigrant to Charm City, there have been several local customs that have been difficult for me to get used to, such as duck pin bowling, Baltimore Club music and lacrosse. They all still seem like bizarre rituals of a strange and foreign culture.
No Baltimore custom, however, strikes me as more grotesque and appalling than the traditional summer "crab feast."
I realize I am in the minority here, but I personally have no interest in engaging in this bizarre and monstrous activity.
If, like me, you have migrated to the area, and have not yet been exposed to this ritual, allow me to give you the gist.
The crab feast consists of, what appears to be, an outdoors high school biology class, only the students are limited to carving materials from the Paleolithic era, and are ravenously consuming the dissection subjects.
The gorging takes place on outdoor picnic tables covered in old pages of The Sun, as nothing says "bon appetite" like mug shots of local murderers.
The tables are covered in a mass of whole crustacean corpses, which are torn apart to have the flesh picked, and sucked directly from the salty little crab exoskeleton.
One attacks the crab as if it were a vampire. No fork and knife here; just hammer and spike.
Getting hungry yet?
Don’t worry. The putrid smell (and taste) is masked with a generous smothering of Old Bay spice, a locally produced seasoning, originally created to make crab eating bar patrons thirsty.
This trick seems to be key in the crab feast ritual, as it encourages attendees to down massive amounts of Natty Boh, and numb them to the reality of the shameful activity they are engaging in.
One enticing feature of the edible blue crab, is the famous “mustard”, which is actually the crab’s hepatopancreas, the organ that filter’s all the toxic material from the creature. Many crab lovers dip their meat into this lovely natural garnish, enjoying all the delicious chemicals that even the crab’s body rejected.
Just imagine if alien explorers happened upon us during a crab feast. They’d have no problem labeling us as savages and forcing us into an intergalactic slave trade.
Are we really willing to take that chance?
It’s true that my dislike of the Baltimore crab feast is at least partially due to my being a sufferer of ichthyophobia, a clinical phobia that is mainly of fish, but also seems, for me, to extend to most water dwelling creatures (including Jimmy Buffet fans).
Think about it though, North Baltimore. Under what other circumstances is it considered civilized to carve entire animal corpses at the dinner table? You are aware that we have slaughter houses for that, right?
Man, they really cut out the middle-man on this one.
Enjoy your macabre, stone aged ritual if you must. I’ll stick to more elegant summer activities, like whistling at women, peeing outdoors and skinny dipping in our water supply.