Unexpected Guests

We had some unexpected visitors last week. A rowdy bunch of crustaceans found their way to my doorstep...gifted to us by C’s godfather after their trip to the beach. C came home lugging a biggish, weave basket, announcing that we had fresh crabs.

Fresh crabs...yay!!!

Wait a minute...fresh crabs mean live crabs right? I looked at the basket, then at C, and I realized – although I have eaten crabs many, many times in my life, I have never dealt with live ones before. Uh-oh. I opened the basket, gave it a gentle shake, and took a tentative peek – multiple pairs of crab-eyes waved back at me. Stay calm, I told myself, before grabbing the phone to call a friend who also happens to be a fantastic cook. The conversation went something to the tune of me having a mini-fit trying to get 20 live, crawling crabs into the biggest basin I owned, while my friend laughed and pointed out quite needlessly, “You’re freaking out!

After much hilarity, he did give me the basic how-to on what to do, and what not to do, with my new pets, along with ideas on how to use them (I also consulted this terrific post). What I couldn’t do though was cook them right away because I had already prepared a BIG pot of chilli for dinner and I had nowhere near enough time to deal with the crabs. So, with assurances that they would indeed survive overnight, I left them in their basin, fretting like a nervous host over whether I should feed them or not, and if so what they should eat.

Sometime in the middle of dinner, we heard and scuffle and a thump and rushed to the basin and discovered that the crabs had formed a kind of crab-ladder with their bodies so that their mates could climb up and escape***! And one fellow already did! After a brief moment of discussion, and some worried murmuring from me about crabs crawling around the flat at night and getting into our bed, we decided to cook them right then and there! C got out biggest pot out; we passed around some beers, and got on with the business of, um, as my uncle called it – la matanza del cangrejo.

I won’t go into details here in consideration for the squeamish. Simply put, as we couldn’t eat them all, we boiled them and stored them (some in the fridge and some in the freezer). C and my cousin Y surprisingly rose to the occasion – a little too enthusiastically in fact! And at the end of it all, when the steaming hot, bright red crabs came out, all I could think of was how we were going to prepare them!

We had the first batch the very next day, steamed (just to heat them up again) in a bamboo steamer with wedges of lemon and sprigs of cilantro thrown in. I tossed knots of lemongrass into the steaming water to add another layer of fragrance. They were beyond delicious. Fresh white crabmeat, sweet and tender, eaten with our hands...dunked in C’s special dipping sauce, juices dripping from our fingers, as we recalled the night of “la matanza” like two old hands exchanging war tales.

The rest of the crab is safely tucked away in the freezer – waiting for me to decide what to do with them. I already have a few ideas, but suggestions are very much welcome!

So friends, keep yourself open to surprise, don’t buy into old ways of thinking, and always have room for unexpected guests! :)

***That part was actually incredible to see and would deserve a whole separate post of dissertation on the fallacies of “crab mentality” – a condition that I am now convinced exists only in humans! They should call it human-mentality and keep the crabs out of it!