Anyways, you are probably wondering why I’m bringing up such a grim topic. It’s because the other day I bought soft shelled blue crabs. Soft shelled blue crabs are crabs that have molted their old shell and are now vulnerable to the elements. The lack of shell means you can actually eat them whole. They are sweet tasting like most traditional crabs and have a nice crunchy bite to them. These tasty little creatures are rare around my home because they aren’t local and they breakdown quickly after they die. So they have to be killed almost right before dinner. I got it in my head that being seasoned in the kitchen I would have no problem cooking these crabs.
After all, I’ve tossed a lobster into hot water and I’ve killed and gutted a live fish before. How hard could it be to serve up soft shelled crabs? I came to learn that day that killing soft shelled crab is one of the most barbaric things out there when it comes to cooking.
First, you have to cut off its face to kill it. That means chopping off its flat little face right behind the eyes with a pair of kitchen scissors. Next you have to rip out the gills on the sides because they taste bad. Then you have to tear off its apron on the bottom where the reproductive organs are.
Sounds brutal right? Well that’s because it is.
I happily bought my crabs at the shop and once I got them home in their individual packages was happy to see what appeared to be crabs wrapped in water with their faces and apron removed. Oh joy! I thought. No messy breaking crabs down for me.
Unfortunately to my dismay upon opening the first little package and plopping him out on the counter I discovered I was wrong...very, very wrong. He was alive and now skittering across my counter probably dazed from the chilly fridge.
I suddenly had flashbacks of my childhood movies. Sebastian the crab was now running around on my counter and I was the evil French chef about the serve him up to a happy Disney melody. I can still see the poor cartoon crab’s face in my mind as he nearly vomits from seeing his fellow crab stuffed like a turkey. The whole image makes me ill and I feel a little sorry about what I know needs to happen now. Suddenly I can’t kill the crabs. Damn you Disney. Damn you!
Fortunately it turns out my boyfriend has a stronger stomach or at least less of an attachment to the Little Mermaid than I do. He breaks them down with ease and I’m left to remove the remaining parts, dredge and cook them. They turn out delicious but I eat very little. I think because I’m still feeling the guilt for the crab formerly known as Sebastian.
It really made me think: imagine if you had to kill all of the meats you eat. Could you stomach it? Would you give it up? It’s easy to walk into a shop and pick up a package but when you really have to get down and dirty to make your meal it can really make you think twice.
I’ll probably continue to eat crab and fish, but it will be a while before I cook these soft shelled crabs on my own again. I’ve learned my lesson for sure and I have a much greater appreciation for how this dish is made. It may be tasty but my goodness it’s not a pretty process.