For the past few summers, I’ve worked as a backpacking leader, tramping around the Appalachian Trail with rising college freshmen for entertainment and for some cash. This is all fun and dandy – I really couldn’t think of a better way to spend a summer – but the breaks in between the sessions (24 hours a day for eight days) don’t come soon enough sometimes.
Don’t get me wrong here: I love hiking. I love being with new people. I love cooking in the woods. But I think what I miss the most is the ability to pick up, go some where beloved, and chow down on some good food. I want to say, I can cook a mean gourmet-backcountry-meal. I just love eating fresh crab from the Georgia coast more.
It’s about a four hour drive from here to there (Davidson to Savannah), but when you’ve got four other compatriots, a loud sound system, and promises of going crabbing, the four hours fly. Along the way we stopped at small gas stations equipped with large pink elephants, a lot of opportunities to buy fresh Georgia peaches, which we hastily took advantage of, and even more chances to get some firecrackers. We all focused on the food, not the explosives, though.
My friend’s house, the one we were driving toward, is located out on a surrounding island of Savannah. It’s not only on an island, but on the inter-costal waterway. What this means is: lots of chances to go out on a boat and search for crabs.
“Hey, if y’all want to get your bathing suits on, we’ll head out to the boat soon.”
“How many can the boat fit?”
“But there’s six of us.”
“It don’t matter, we’ll make it happen. That boat’s a strong one.”
My friend’s optimism never ceases to amaze me. She piled all of us into the small, rinky boat along with a cooler full of chicken necks (we found out later what they were for), some spritzers (because we “had to keep it classy”) and a few tows (just in case we “had to go for a swim, while keeping it classy”). With all of that gear, supplies and people, we set off into the waterway that looked like a labyrinth of water trails.
It was the perfect time of the day, too, because the tide was going out, which brought all of the crabs out. That and the fact that it was sunny and 80 degrees out made it the perfect time of the day.
For two and a half hours, we laughed a lot while drinking our spritzers and hopping off the boat every so often to keep cool. We also threw chicken necks, attached to fishing lines, over the side of the boat, to appeal to the crabs. We would slowly, stealthily pull the line back to the boat. If it was a male, we’d keep him. Female, throw her back.
Two and a half hours and about 25 crabs passed, and we headed back to the humble abode.
The crabs never made it past my friend’s dock – when we got back, my friend’s mom had brought out a big boiler. Really, it looked like a ten gallon drum, full of water, and a propane tank underneath to heat the whole thing. After unloading our fleet from the boat, we hauled the
crabs towards the drum.
I never really like describing what happens next, so, in true spoon-fed fashion, we’ll skip over that part, and go to happier times.
The crabs cooked while we ran in to make the butter sauce and cook shrimp as well. After some time, the crabs were nice and rosy and ready to eat, but first we had to clean them out. My friend’s 13 year old sister took control and showed me the way.
“Take the hose and just aim it at my hands.”
“Now you just grab this flap, pull, get out all the entrails, toss the body and keep all of the claws and legs.”
If it was anyone else telling me to ‘toss the body,’ I may have had a more serious aversion to the situation, but because it was her, I gladly ‘tossed the body’ to the raccoons sitting below. It was a regular low-country cookout.
Bodies tossed, crabs cleaned, shrimp cooked and butter sauce made, we all sat around the dock, watching the storms roll in off the inter-coastal waterway and devoured our haul. It was a nice way to slip away from carrying a backpack for seven hours, even if just for two days.