June 17, 2022
This coming weekend is Father’s Day. While moms traditionally get breakfast in bed on their day, fathers grill outside. I assume this was intended to give each of them a break from their usual routine, although changing lifestyles no longer necessarily support these roles. Families will often generally go out to a restaurant for mom’s and father’s days and save the toil for both. Since restaurants are usually packed on Sundays, Melissa suggested we go out to celebrate last night instead. She told me to choose “any place I would like.” She also knows I am lax when it comes to making these suggestions, so she began to look as well. Interestingly, we both hit on the same restaurant. One of our favorite oyster bars was having a ninth anniversary celebration and was running a crab boil special for the evening. We decided to go.
When I looked online, I found crab boil is a spice mixture that is used to flavor the water in which crabs or other shellfish are boiled. A crab boil is also a social event where boiled crabs are eaten, a kind of seafood boil. Crab boils are known in the Ville Platte areas of Louisiana as “dome lobster boils,” which comes from the local term “dome lobster” for crabs. The name derives from the shape and composition of crabs and their likeness to a domed lobster. The largest of these gatherings is the Crayon d’Orange festival (French for ‘Orange Pencil’) in Evangeline Parish. There are notable variations to the type of boil used. Boiled seafood in southern Louisiana tends to be spicier than found in other parts of the country and uses Zatarain’s. Maryland crabs are prepared by seasoning generously with Chesapeake Bay crab seasoning such as Old Bay and then steaming over, not in, vinegared water (often, beer is added to the steaming water). The Lowcountry boil, Tidewater boil, and Frogmore Stew are variations on the same theme in North and South Carolina. Here, recipes may go in either a Louisiana or Maryland direction. Other regional crab boil companies are Tony Chachere’s, and Rex Crab Boil, and some chefs make their own boil. Most shrimp and crawfish recipes also call for added crab boil as a seasoning.
We arrived at the restaurant early as it is always packed and knowing it would be even more so given the anniversary. We were one of only a few who had arrived to eat, although the bar was completely full of revelers. As we thought, the place was packed by the time we finished. The crab boil was not on the menu, but when we asked about it the waitress told us it would easily feed the two of us. We ordered raw oysters for an appetizer and went with the boil for the entrée. When the massive tray arrived, we found it was a seafood boil set up for three. There were three half lobster tails and three half snow crabs to go with the pile of shrimp, mussels, andouille sausage, potatoes, corn, and garlic bread. We ate our fill and still took home two to go boxes. It was a happy early Father’s Day.
THOUGHTS: When we moved to Melissa’s house in Arkansas, I came down several weeks early to prep the house for her arrival. One of my tasks was to clear out the cabinets and get rid of the duplicate items to make room for our cookware. Melissa’s dad had lived in her house before moving to a care facility and had become forgetful. He would often buy duplicates of items when he forgot where he had put them, and that was especially true for spices. When I cleaned out the spice shelves, I found four cans of Old Bay crab boil stashed in different places. That added to the one we already had. Variations apply regionally for food, culture, and language. While a dish may not taste “like mom made it”, the variation can provide variety. The same it true with culture. Different does not imply better or worse, it means different. Since moving south I have found I do like grits, but I still draw the line at okra. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.