Thursday, February 11, 2010

Epic Food Fail: This is Why Size Matters

I realize that most men who have just read the title have broken out in a cold sweat. Relax, I'm not talking about you, ego maniac. Size matters in cooking, no matter what she tells you. If your pot, pan, crock pot, whatever is too small for what you're about to put in it, you could be in trouble. I'll explain.

This story takes place back before my husband and I were married. His grandparents had a big house on an island off the coast of Washington state. Sounds nice, right? It was a beautiful island. Full of old growth forest, hills, pebble beaches and the most gorgeous honey colored light at sunset. The journey there was...original.

We landed in Seattle and spent a couple days there. We went shopping at that famous open market to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables. The island we were heading to only had one civic building on it aside from houses, so fresh produce was impossible to come by unless you grew it yourself. We loaded up and got on the big ferry to the big island, part way between Washington state and our final destination. From the “thriving metropolis” we took yet another “boat”.

Let me explain.

The boat was about the size of a couch and made out of tin (foil). The 'captain' was a skinny guy about mid thirties, tops, and the first mate was a scraggly dog that got too much pleasure from running around on this S.S. Minnow. We climbed into the tin can and he raced across the sea, bouncing and slapping against the waves, throwing us about like socks in a drier. We stopped about 500 feet from the shore and Captain Ron reached into the water and pulled up a cage with a big, pissed off dungeness crab in it. When I say big I mean huge. This thing was the size of a tom cat!

When we got to shore he asked my mother-in-law if she wanted it. Not one to turn away anything free she said, “Sure!” How we were supposed to transport this thing was beyond all of us. Since there was no crate for us to take with us it was put in a plastic bag, from which it promptly escaped. She screamed and ran after it, calling for help. As it skittered away she quickly grabbed the plastic bag handle, hooked one of the many frantic legs and tossed it into a paper grocery bag, where it stayed, upside down and furious.
We got it to her parents' house, finally, after another interesting ride. A little Hungarian man with a slight limp was going to drive us to the grandparents' house. He said he was a soldier in world war II and the Nazis shot off his heels when he was escaping Hungary. He did so by clinging to the underside of a train for about 50 miles. True? How the hell should *I* know!? All I know for sure is that his car had a lawnmower steering wheel and NO doors! So when we drove through the brush that used to be a drive way at top speed, the tree and bush branches along the way kept slapping us in the face. I ended up with red cheeks and a mouth full of leaves.

But I digress. Back to the crab.

When we finally got inside the house we had to figure out how to deal with Bubbles. I asked his grandmother if she had a big pot. The biggest pot they had was 1/3 smaller than the crab.

Not good. Not good at all.

We boiled the water and sort of gathered around the paper bag and stared into it. It was making these gurgling, bubbling noises. I think it knew it was in major trouble. There were no tongs, oven mitts or spears we could use to get it out, so Rob, his mom and I got a ladle and two spatulas and lifted it out and over the pot. Someone said, “Which end is the head,” when a spatula slipped, boiling water splashed on Rob and the crab fell in the water ass first, trying desperately to scramble away from us as fast as it could. As Rob howled in pain, I grabbed a nearby pot lid, bashed the crab's head into the water and held underneath the bubbles until it stopped struggling. The best part was the fact I was wearing a “Be kind to animals” t-shirt the whole time.

I realize most of the time your dinner will not be trying to escape, but a small pot and a large meal never have a happy ending.

BTW we did eat the crab and it was great! But from now on I'll get my seafood pre-killed. I'm not a fan of torturing anything living and I advise against it whole heartedly, but we were several miles from the beach at this time and we already had the water going.....