An Oregon Story

Some years ago, a cooler mash tun of mine ended up in a thrasher-friend's possession. I recently sought to reclaim it, dutifully lodging my request. Weeks passed. This weekend, the friend, his father, and his 16-year-old son went crabbing down by Coos Bay. He returned to Portland Monday, and had the bright idea of returning the mash tun to me full of ice and crabs.

The Dungeness crab is native to the West Coast, from Canada down to California. It is a rather humble-looking being, more body than legs, a sunset color. They are feisty, known to scrabble around the bottom of boats rooting for food even as a crabber tries to fit their back with a plastic measure to see whether they're legal. (A handy marking on the bottom, suitably masculine, indicates which gender to save and which to discard. You have to flip them over to see, a practice they resist.) The end is grisly, and not fit discussion for a vegetarian--even a bad one like me.

However, once they arrive at your plate--whether via restaurateur or mash tun--they are delicious. Some crabs taste sharply fishy, others bland. Dungeness are sweet, touched with the brine of the sea. I suppose tastier varieties exist but I haven't encountered them. Last night, Sally and I busted out the mash tun and a couple bottles of my grisette (also known as a petit saison) and started eating. They were absolutely fresh and delicious. I grew up in Idaho, and the idea of eating crab fresh from the sea, straight, without need of interceding sauces or sides, still leaves me a little delirious. Fantastic.

Of course, the mash tun is a lost cause. I may salvage the manifold, but that remains to be seen. It was worth it.