Heirlooms and Rarities


One of my favorite things to eat is the blue crab (Callinectes sapidus). Its Latin name translates as “beautiful swimmer,” and it is indeed a lovely creature to behold. It’s not so pretty when molting, but it remains ever tasty. There’s no crab that compares eating-wise, except for maybe the 大閘蟹 (dazhaxie, or hairy crabs) from 阳澄湖 (Yangcheng Lake), just outside of Shanghai. 大閘蟹 are, not suprisingly, increasingly rare.

Blue crab also just made the list of endangered American foods. When I was a kid, my family would take roadtrips to the Chesapeake Bay just to eat. It was a churning, veritable feast. My dad would tie a pork rib on some string, and I would fling it into the surf. After a few minutes, I’d reel back in five or so crabs clinging desperately to their catch, and I’d hurriedly pry off my catch, almost as desperately, into the pot. Now, the Chesapeake is in such bad shape. I wonder if it still smells as I remember of brine and kelp and sand, or if today it reeks of rot and death.

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