Why is Tess Monaghan allergic to shellfish? I thought that would be funny, this quintessential Baltimore girl, incapable of eating the region’s signature dish of steamed crabs.
Then someone very dear to me developed a shellfish allergy and I realized it’s not that funny. But, by then, I was seven books into the series and I couldn’t change Tess’s fate.
And the fact is, I’m not particularly passionate about this local delicacy. Too much mess for me — the Old Bay under the fingernails, the newspapers and shells, which send up a mighty stink within 24 hours. When I was a child, my family would end crab feasts by driving what felt like hours (probably 30 minutes) to the incinerator, where we would hand the crab remains to a begrimed worker who thrust them into a roaring fire right behind him. At least, that’s the image my memory presents, a drive-through incinerator. I’m sure family members would dispute it.
But no one would dispute this: My parents had a set of really nice crab mallets, made of dark wood, with stainless steel handles. These were considered extraordinary objects. So I must have been very, very, very angry when I took one and, with a precision that outstripped Ed Ames’s famous appearance on the Tonight Show, aimed it at the back of my sister’s head from a distance of several feet, while we were both running down Wetheredsville Road.
Memories of local culinary treats and your own relationship to them, please. Or memories of mayhem committed with cherished utensils.