Long time readers of the blog probably know my friend Lucy Alibar best as the creator of these incredibly easy, incredibly delicious chocolate peanut butter cookies. Now she’s gone and created something slightly more ambitious: a little movie she wrote called “Beasts of the Southern Wild” that’s taking the world by storm. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the Camera d’or at the Cannes Film Festival and earned rave reviews all over the place. I saw the movie two weeks ago and was blown away by its vision of life in a place called “The Bathtub” where a little girl named Hushpuppy and her dad struggle to survive against all odds, still finding room to celebrate life with feasts of crab and other seafood dumped ceremoniously on long tables. Because food plays such a big part in the story, I asked Lucy if she would answer some food-related questions about the movie. She kindly obliged (and even sent along the pictures you see in this post).
When the BP oil spill happened, newscasters and journalists alike spoke of the devastating effect this would have on the Louisiana seafood industry. For most of us, that industry was just an abstraction. We imagined men and women in boats or on docks, but we didn’t have any specific images in our heads (except the ones that we saw on TV). Which is why I jumped at the opportunity to join a trip arranged by the Louisiana Seafood Board to meet the men and women who were most affected by what happened in the Gulf. This is the story of what I encountered.
There’s a secret about Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami that’s so dangerous, so protected that the people who took me there for dinner do not want to be identified.
I could’ve chosen, of course, just to write about the meal like any other meal; focusing on the food instead of the secret, but the secret to me is almost as fascinating as the stone crabs are delicious. In fact, you’ll be waiting an hour and a half for stone crabs if you don’t know the secret.
Let’s say you’re growing up in Boca Raton, Florida and you’re looking at a map and someone says to you, “Point to a place in America that seems the most exotic to you, the most far away?” there’s a good chance you might point to Washington State. After all, it’s pretty much as far as you can get from Boca Raton within the continental U.S. And growing up, as I did (past the age of 11), in South Florida, I very rarely–if ever–entertained the idea that I might, one day, find myself in Washington State, on a barely inhabited island on the San Juan archipelago, sitting in a rowboat with my boyfriend, his dad, and brother, pulling up traps of giant crabs that we would take ashore, smash on the side of a bucket, and cook in sea water. The closest I ever got to cooking and killing my own seafood in Boca Raton was choosing a lobster from the tank at Red Lobster when I went there with my grandparents.
Flash forward to me at the age of 29: generously invited by Craig and his family to join them for five days on the San Juan Islands where we would catch, kill, clean and cook our own fresh Dungeness crabs; I was suddenly about to experience the most exotic adventure the younger me could’ve imagined.
I’ve had a very restful (and eventful) two weeks. That’s me, above, eating a Dungeness Crab on Eliza Island in the Pacific Northwest (one of the best meals of my life, but more on that next week). After a week there kayaking, playing cards and, of course, crabbing, I journeyed with Craig to Cape Cod where we enjoyed high-speed boat tubing (I chickened out), merciless games of Mafia and fantastic meals of ribs, corn, and clam chowder. I returned with 130 pictures on my camera and crashed my computer yesterday trying to edit them all at once in Photoshop (I’m pretty dumb.)
Was I really able to turn my back on my site for two weeks, without monitoring or reading your comments or worrying about how the next day’s post would fare? As my web guy Justin will tell you (adamantly, I’d guess): NO!!!!
I tried, I really did. But I love this blog and I loved the guest posts! Didn’t you? Allow me to pause for a second and thank thank thank all my guest posters: I’m so honored to have had such talented writers writing on my blog. Thank you thank you thank you for your fantastic posts which I read, secretly, on my iPhone while surrounded by glorious nature. What does nature have on Phoebe Damrosch? Or The Science of Fressing? Nothing, I tell you, nothing!
Now that I’m back, my life’s about to change dramatically. The big news (and only the most fervent of you must have discovered it) is that I will no longer be hosting the FN Dish (here’s my farewell video) ; instead, I’m working on a brand new project for Food Network online. What is it? When will it launch? Who else is working on it? I’m sorry, but these are secrets that I can’t yet reveal, but I will say that the new show is much, much, much more in the spirit of this blog–it’s funny, slightly edgy, and food-obsessed. I think you’re going to love it.
I’m going to miss working with my FN Dish team: especially Matthew and Rachael, who I traveled the country with (to Vegas and beyond) and really enjoyed knowing as friends. But we’ll stay in touch (maybe Matthew will do us another guest post?) and I encourage everyone to keep watching The FN Dish, especially since my replacement, Bruce Seidel, is a really awesome guy.
So what else is in store for The Amateur Gourmet? My book comes out in paperback on September 30th. Check out the nifty new paperback cover:
I’ll be doing a reading (and a cooking demonstration! Yikes!) at the Baltimore Book Festival at the end of the month so more on that soon. And my trip to Baltimore fits in perfectly with this month’s banner theme (clear your cache and re-load the site): crabs! Having had Dungeness crabs at the start of the month in the Pacific Northwest, I’ll be able to compare them to blue crabs in Baltimore at the end of the month (though crab season might be over….) Will I finally settle the Great Crab Debate? Stay tuned… (and Baltimorites: where’s the best place to get crab in Baltimore?)
Hope you all had very restful and rejuvenating Labor Day weekends and that your last days of summer are happy ones. Thanks for your patience while I was gone… can’t wait to get blogging again.
Until next week…..
The Amateur Gourmet
For as long as I’ve known him, Craig has waxed lyrical about the Dungeness crabs he and his family eat when they go to their cabin on the San Juan Islands, pull the crabs right out of the water, boil them and eat them right on the spot. Diana, however, who comes from Virginia is partial to the blue crabs she gets from the water near her house, cooked in a mixture of beer and various seasonings. Mark, her boyfriend, who’s had both Diana’s blue crabs and Dungeness crabs (though, not Craig’s Dungeness crabs) prefers the blue crabs and you can see them agitating Craig in the above video.
I’ll finally get to taste Craig’s beloved crabs a week from Friday when I fly out to Seattle for a week-long visit to Bellingham and the San Juan Islands. Meanwhile, those of you who’ve had both, which do you prefer: Dungeness crabs or blue crabs? If you say blue, prepare to get angry e-mails from Craig.