About once a year I get the urge to write about my brother, who was killed six years ago today. I’ve posted about his love for protein shakes and about the time he told a girl he had a pot roast in the oven so he could get off of the phone.
I thought these were the only connections I could make between my brother and food, so this year I planned to post only a picture of us as kids. I love this shot for its 80s references (Rainbow Brite, Ms. Piggy, headbands, Reebox), for our dress-up clothes, and for the fact that Pat is laughing and I am smiling and we are having a good bit of fun. Together.
Then I remembered that we had most of our fun together at the beach in Ocean City. Other than hot dogs and peanut butter crackers made with Sociables, there was one meal we always had at the beach: Maryland crab soup.
My family had crab soup on our annual one-week vacations. The way I remember it, my grandfather would go crabbing on the Bay and bring his catch back to the condo in his cooler. My grandmother would then pick the crabs and make the soup with crab shells and beef broth and packages of frozen peas, carrots, and corn. Or, if my grandfather didn’t catch anything, which I think happened in later years, they would buy the crabs.
I never ate this soup though, and I’d bet money that Pat didn’t either. Being from Baltimore, I’m ashamed to say this, but we were not crab people. To this day, I do not love picking crabs. After Pat died, I learned he didn’t either.
And he hit the reason why right on the head. My mom told me he once said he thought picking crabs was too much work for too little reward. I completely agree.
Still, today I will take a seat at the brown paper-covered table when my family gets crabs. I will even participate, breaking off the claws of an Old Bay-crusted crab first, then using my knife to pry open the main shell and to scrape away the intestines and the mustard. I will even eat the meat inside and think it tastes good, a bit sweet from the meat and spicy from the Old Bay.
But after one or two crabs I’m done. It is too much work.
The two former meals are a bit too light for my brother, but I like to think he would eat crab soup with me if he was here today. Maybe the two of us would enjoy a bowl in the kitchen at the beach while the rest of my family sits at the table, working hard at picking their crabs.
Maryland Crab Soup
This is my grandmother’s non-recipe for crab soup, one that she still makes every year in the summer. It’s just a guide really, so it’s a perfect “recipe” for those who don’t like to follow directions in the kitchen. I recommend buying crab meat at the seafood or grocery store. It’s much less work.
Unfortunately, the last thing I want to eat is soup these days. It’s just too hot. So that’s why this posts lacks a picture. But you can imagine the soup: a rich crab and beef broth seasoned with spicy Old Bay and filled with vegetables and sweet lumps of crab. It’s kind of like a minestrone soup for Marylanders.
Beef broth, homemade or store-bought
Soup bones (beef bones)
1 14-ounce can tomatoes, diced or pureed
1 bag (or more) of frozen peas, carrots, and corn
Crab meat (either backfin meat, if you like lumps of crab, or claw meat)
Add your crab shells, beef broth, and soup bones to a large soup pot or Dutch oven, enough to nearly fill the pot. Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce to low heat. Add the tomatoes, cabbage, celery, and onions, and simmer for one hour. Remove the crab shells and soup bones.
Stir in one bag of frozen vegetables (we like peas, carrots, and corn) and let them defrost for a few minutes. Run your fingers through the crab meat to check for shells, and discard any that you find. To finish, stir in the crab meat and cook until heated through. “And then you have to put some Old Bay in it, to give it some flavor,” my grandmother says. So add Old Bay to taste and serve.
If you have a recipe for Maryland crab soup, please feel free to link to it in the comments section.