Monday, February 6, 2012

The Crab Feed

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been forced to attend social functions that I normally wouldn’t think of attending (like ..never in a million years).. Okay I guess “forced” may be a little too strong a word, compelled may be a more appropriate word since nobody actually tied me up against my will and dragged me to these events. Here goes...

Numero Uno (Sometimes I like to try out my fantastic bi-lingual abilities...uno, dos, burrito, tostado...please don’t take offense, I’m just havin’ a little fun...tryin’ to brighten my otherwise cloudy day.)

The Steak and Crab Feed....

I’d never been to a crab feed so OF (Old Friend of undesirable snackage fame)asked me if I wanted to go. Since she went to The Play with me, it only seemed fair to reciprocate. Seems one of her co-workers had a kid in high school who was selling tickets to raise funds for one of the million clubs/groups that parents these days are always selling tickets for. The Husband and one of the Old Chix won’t buy tickets unless the actual kid does the selling...OF & I are much easier targets for the school kid parents to hit. And since neither OF or I have school aged kids we don’t even get a chance to retaliate and make the parents buy shit from us in return for our patronage of the rotten fruit of their loins.

I get hit nearly every weekend by some kid standing outside the grocery store and feel obligated to politely listen to their spiel about how they’re trying to raise money for summer camp, or band instruments, or Xmas presents...yes, Xmas presents...two teenage girls were selling mistletoe to raise money to buy Xmas presents. I just can’t say no...and I’m ashamed to admit I even got sucked into buying tree fungus (that would be mistletoe) at Xmas time wrapped in a little sandwich bag & tied with a purty little ribbon when I could go pick it off my trees at home.

The whole mistletoe thing is even more pathetic for someone my age because, really, who am I gonna go up to and hold mistletoe over their head beggin’ for a kiss??? The only ones who might actually be willing would be old farts with gray hair sprouting out of their ears and noses...and the thought of getting a horrified look from some old dude matching that description would be too much to bear...and that thought will forever keep from attempting such a foolhardy act...but I digress.

The crab feed was held in the gym of one of the local high schools. And it was packed...no shit...there were hundreds of people there...who knew that crab feeds were such big business??? Not me, that’s for sure...but then, I don’t get out much.

There were long cafeteria tables set up in the gym and we had to wait forever in the chow line, which conveniently took us past several tables filled with fabulous raffle prizes...hmmm...call me crazy, but I think they planned it that way...just a guess...I could be wrong. The kids then got to suck even more money out of us by selling tickets for all these fabulous prizes. They all had the same line “they’re a quarter apiece or five for a dollar”... just once I’d like to hear some kid say “they’re a quarter apiece or three for a dollar”. I can’t believe that there’s not some enterprising young person ready to make a buck off the crowd of unsuspecting oldsters...sadly, there wasn’t...I wonder how many they could have sold that way??? I bet most people wouldn’t even have noticed. It would have been fun to watch. I would have paid just to let them think they’d pulled the wool over my eyes.

When we finally got seated the tables were placed in long rows so there were about twenty-five or so people sitting in each row. I had OF on my left, OF’s sister on my right...and complete strangers sitting across from me watching me eat. And let me tell you, these people were prepared. Unlike me, this wasn’t their first crab feed, no sir...they came prepared with proper pickin’ pieces, like handy little long sharp forks and shell crackers...and well, we did too...sort of...

See, this wasn’t OF’s first crab feed either...she came prepared too. Only her pickin’ pieces weren’t exactly proper. Instead of the pliers like crackers that all the properly prepared pickers possessed, OF brought a nut cracker...like you’d crack a walnut with...and instead of the long slender thing with tines on one end to push or pull the meat out of the shell, OF brought corn cob holders, you know, the tiny little things that are shaped like a little yellow corn cob with two points on the end that you stick in ears of corn...

“Is there corn?” I said fearfully as she plunked down the nut cracker and corn cob holder in front of me. Because if there’s one thing I do know...it’s you should never eat corn on the cob in public...trust me on this...you’ll find yourself talking and smiling and when you go to the bathroom you’ll be mortified because you’ll have corn kernels all stuck between your teeth. Of course, you could be brave and test this theory...but if you do, please make sure I’m there as a witness...

“No” she said “you crack the shells with this” pointing to the nut cracker “and then you pick the meat out with this” pointing to the corn cob holder with the minuscule teeth on the end.

I have to admit, there was a brief moment when I thought I was being punked...but she was dead serious. The lady across from us with proper pickin’ pieces smiled at me and nodded her head...I could swear she was trying not to laugh. And let me tell you, this lady knew her business. She had a pile of crab meat sitting on her Chinette plate that was as big as my fist and she was still pickin’ more out.

Okay then...Everybody had on bibs so I dutifully put on my bib too still wondering if maybe I was being punked after all. Each plate had a little Styrofoam cup containing a few leaves of lettuce and a container of ranch dressing. Plastic bags were sitting at different spots on the table holding pieces of cold sliced French bread along with little bowls of individually wrapped cold butter cubes. Students and/or faculty members were assigned to each table serve us our steaks which, when they arrived, were about a quarter of an inch thick and looked like sliced liver. But the main feasting item at this dinner was inside disposable roasting pans in the middle of the tables. Each roasting pan was filled with crab legs so I reached in and grabbed one...and it was ice cold...I thought maybe it just hadn’t been cooked so I let go of the first leg and grabbed another but it was cold too...who knew there was all this fuss over cold crab??? Not me.

“Did you know it was going to be cold” I asked OF?

“It’s always cold” she said. “it’s okay, it’s supposed to be”.

So now I have to try to be a good sport because the only time I’d eaten crab before it had been cooked...and was hot...and I dipped it into hot melted butter...and it was good...and this was not what I’d expected.

I stick my hand back into the frozen food section of the meal and grab a humongous crab leg and start my pickin’ process...with my hobo’s ass tools. I quickly found that the reason for the pliers like cracking tools is so you can just go down the crab leg efficiently...not quite as efficient with a nut cracker. First I held the leg with my left hand, but I was holding the thin end of the leg leaving a bulbous protrusion at the other end which the nut cracker couldn’t get over...so I tried to put the nut cracker over in the center of the leg, but then I had to let go while I tried to grab the ends from underneath and it rolled off onto my plate. The second time I tried I set the crab leg down and slid the nut cracker over the thin end of the leg and cracked my way up to the fat end. It worked better this way so at least then I had a plan of action. Once I thought I’d made enough cracks, I started digging out the meat...with my corn cob holder. Everybody else seemed to be getting bigger pieces of meat out of their shells than me. I kept getting tiny little shmooshed (just go with it...it's a new word)  flakes of crab.

I hadn’t eaten much all day in anticipation of this night’s feasting so by this time I’m getting really hungry...and getting this crab out of the legs was very time consuming...it seemed like I was picking crab for hours and had barely a teaspoon full on my plate. I’d already wolfed down the lettuce leaf and ate a slice of cold bread plain because when I tried to butter it, the butter was so cold it tore the bread. This annoys me at restaurants too...why do they serve cold butter with bread? Are they secretly try to keep you from eating more bread? But once it’s on your table, they can’t use it for other stuff can they? Maybe the stuff that’s left in the bread basket on your table is used to make bread pudding the next day...or stuffing for the roast turkey. There’s a creepy thought. Or maybe it’s just to make the bread course last longer so you’ll be really hungry and appreciate your food when it finally arrives. All I know is it bugs me.

By the time I finally get about a tablespoon of crab flakes on my plate a man shows up on the other side of the table with a platter of individual serving cups half containing melted butter, the other half containing cocktail sauce. He’s giving them to the people next to OF so, thinking he’s one of the servers she looks at him and says...

“Oh, I want one of the cocktail sauces”. The guy smiles at her and OF must be really hungry and ready to eat too, because she says “you don’t have to serve it to me, just move the tray over and I’ll grab one off it.”

Which he obligingly does...then he sits down in the vacant spot at the table where he’d been sitting before he went and got condiments for he and his friends. It took about a minute for OF to realize this poor guy was another diner and not her personal waiter.  She was mortified...rightly so since she’d just forced a complete stranger to give her the  food off his plate...I on the other hand, was mightily amused. It was actually the highlight of my night.

Someone brought little cups of melted butter to my end of the table so finally I’m ready to take my first bite. I take the little plastic fork loaded with crab flakes and dip it into the cup of melted butter, only to have the flakes slip between the tines of the stoopid little plastic fork down to the bottom of the melted butter. Words cannot describe how disheartened I was. Here I’d worked so hard to get that piddly ass fork full of crab and now it was gone...I tried to scoop some pieces from the melted butter, but when I finally got some of them out it was like the butter had solidified on the cold crab flakes and turned the whole thing into a congealed mess. I ended up skipping the rest of the melted butter since the only crab meat I had was in teensie tiny flakes, thanks to the aforementioned hobo's ass corn cob pickin' piece, and ate a bite that was just plain cold crab meat. I kid you not...the next bite had a piece of shell in it...I was done. This is one of the reasons that I don’t like fish caught in a stream...there’s always tiny bones...I remember being a kid and my dad would go hunting for birds, doves, pheasants, quail, whatever...he’d be so proud of his hunting prowess and we’d always have to eat his what he brought home. Every time, there’d be a BB in a piece of meat that I’d end up biting down on.

So now when someone asks me if I've ever been to a crab feed I can say "why yes I have"...and when they ask if I'd like to go to one I can honestly say "no fucking way"...I will however buy a ticket because it's for a good cause...and I may donate it to some unsuspecting schmuck like me who I'm sure will attend as unprepared as I was.  I'll also make sure that he or she too is forced to suffer the indignities of using OF's hobo's ass pickin' pieces.   In the meantime, I'm still prayin' that there's no video...it's the stoopidist thing.