A summery week in photos

So I’m from Maryland. Temperatures above 90 degrees? No big deal. My hometown is literally built on a swamp, and the humidity doesn’t phase me. Usually. Considering my “time outdoors” consists of dashing from my car to the cool confines of my air-conditioned office, I don’t sweat it (puns!) when it gets exceedingly hot.

Which it has been. Horribly so. In the Washington, D.C. area, we’re wrapping up eleven straight days of temperatures hitting 95 degrees and up, and I have been one sweaty, cranky person. The heat has been getting to me in the worst way, making me one frizzy-haired nightmare — and that especially sucks considering I’ve had so many fun things to do outside lately. Between family reunions, the Fourth of July, crab feasts, fireworks and more, the past week has been really fun . . . and really sweaty.

Seriously. I took three showers on Saturday.

All the same, we hit a friend’s Fourth of July party on Wednesday (no work! Yay, America’s birth!), hung out by the pool (but not in the pool . . . your girl can’t swim) and ate delicious barbeque. Though we didn’t make it out for fireworks, we lit (legal) firecrackers in the backyard. The next night found us at a baseball game with my cousins and their adorable little girls, in town from Pennsylvania, and I think I sweated off 10 lbs. in the bug-infested night air. The Blue Crabs were losing 11-4 when we ducked out in the eighth inning, unable to take any more of the soul-crushing humidity.

Spence and I managed to get up at 2:30 a.m. to see the sunrise over the Chesapeake Bay on Saturday with our photography club, which is always beautiful and life-affirming. The mosquitoes and my agitation had reached sky-high proportions by 7 a.m., though, so it was off for pancakes and a two-hour nap before we hit my aunt’s belated Fourth of July party. We stayed until dusk approached, and then I came home and tried to stay awake until a “normal” time . . . which ended up being 9:30-ish. After the busy day and crazy sleep pattern, I was wiped out. I actually felt jet lagged.

Sunday was made for more time with family — and a big one, at that! We were thrilled to see my grandmother, cousins and my dad’s extended family at a local seafood house, where we picked crabs, gabbed and covered ourselves in Old Bay. I haven’t spent so much time in such good company in ages — and I loved it. And so much good eating.

Crabs and family. That’s what (my) Maryland does.

Real Marylanders

group_of_crabsWhenever I’m far from home and mention that I’m a Maryland girl, I’m inevitably asked about our major export and local claim to fame: crabs. You know — the big, scary red ones with the claws (and shells!) you crack open and eat? By the time I was old enough to listlessly poke at my own crustacean, my dad had informed me that “real Marylanders” know how to pick crabs with the best of ’em. We don’t need a little guide sheet to the crab’s body printed at our tables, or a bored server to come by and try to explain to us how to get the tender, buried meat out.

No, we just know.

I’ve spent my life trying not to embarrass my father and grandmother while we go pick crabs! The first bushel of the season is always a momentous occasion. My dad got a few dozen fresh from a family friend last week and, in honor of the Fourth of July and our — um — independence to eat crustaceans if we want to, we went through quite a few of them last Saturday. Everything was fine, you know, but I could immediately sense that something was . . . different. It took just a few seconds to put my finger on it.

old_bayWe were missing the Old Bay Seasoning. It’s salty, a little pungent, and definitely critical to any seafood meal. I’m guessing this isn’t just a Maryland thing, but it’s essential to my crab-eating experience. By some miraculous twist of Seafood Fate, we actually had some in the cabinet!

Does anyone else share in our crab love?

What’s your local culinary claim to fame?