Guilty Pleasures: Crab Legs

As the weather warms up along the Mid-Atlantic, people inevitably start thinking crab. But writer Jody Mace admits that for her, crabs are a borderline obsession. She takes us through the entire thought process at her favorite crab shack Original Benjamin’s Calabash Seafood in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

I hold the crab leg with both hands, my thumbs almost touching. I give it a sharp, measured, snap. The goal is to crack the shell, but not tear the meat.

I turn it over and snap again, cracking the shell all around. I gently wiggle the two sections apart, revealing a long piece of crabmeat hanging, quivering, from the shell. I dip it in the butter and bring it to my mouth. I hold the crab leg lightly with my teeth, and, closing my eyes, pull the meat from the shell. Sweet crab, rich butter, and a hint of salt mingle in my mouth. Heaven.

Going for all-you-can-eat crab is de rigueur when my sister and I visit Myrtle Beach. We’ve got a strategy. First there’s the basket of hushpuppies. I could eat them all. But that’s just what they want us to do! If we fill up on hushpuppies, we won’t put a hurting to the crab legs. So we resist.

Whoever has the best view of the buffet bar alerts the other when a new vat of steaming hot crab legs arrives. It’s easy to be sidetracked by the 70 other items at the buffet. I skip them all. Each bite of shrimp scampi takes up a little stomach room reserved for crab legs. You have to focus.

At some point, my sister and I swap rationalizations.

“Crab legs don’t have all that much meat.”

“And cracking them expends lots of calories.”

“When you think of the actual amount of butter you use it’s not much.”

“Of course not.”

We’re partners in this gluttonous crime.

We didn’t eat crab legs growing up. Our family kept kosher, so no seafood for us. After I moved south and slurped my first crab leg, I was hooked. I’d give up almost any other forbidden item—pork, mammals without cloven hooves, tattoos—before I’d forsake crab legs.

My husband is slim and non-Jewish so he can eat crabs guilt-free.

But he doesn’t like them. He eats from the 70 other items on the buffet, some of them not even seafood. He watches, appalled, as my sister and I become animalistic, coastal cavewomen. There’s little conversation, just grunting, shells cracking, and crabmeat-slurping.

Occasionally one of us holds up a particularly long, beautiful piece of crabmeat for the other to admire and we make appreciative noises.

Eventually I become overzealous in pursuit of some little piece of crabmeat hiding in the far reaches of the shell. I try fishing it out with the tiny fork, but fail. I start breaking off pieces of the shell, until, inevitably, my hand is punctured by a sharp piece of shell. I don’t stop to tend to my wound. The crab legs might get cold. The next day it still hurts. A crab shell injury feels like a paper cut that burns. Its pain is as distinct as the taste of the crabmeat. I don’t complain. The sin was worth the punishment.

Do you have your own guilty pleasure while traveling? Email us and we’ll try to feature it on IT.

Photo: cstein96 via Flickr