23 November 2003
I wasn't expecting the cannon fire.
We had gone in to Sacramento for a matinee of two hilarious monologues--"Seasons Greetings" and "The Santaland Diaries." Both were written by NPR storyteller David Sidaris and are kind of the anti-Christmas shows. But very, very funny.
When the show was over, we had plans to finally get to Old Sacramento, to Joe's Crab Shack, sitting there next to Tower Bridge, for dinner. We'd tried to go there a few weeks ago, but we hit it on "Old West Days" or something like that. There were a bazillion people in Old Sacramento and there was a 2 hour wait at Joe's. We decided that no restaurant is that good.
While Walt waited in the car today, I went in to check on the length of wait time for a reservation. Not bad: 20-25 minutes. Not enough time to go wandering around Old Sacramento, but enough time to walk out onto the balcony and watch the sun go down behind the bridge.
As we stood there, the bridge (a drawbridge) began to raise the center section and there, on the other side, silhouetted in the sunset, was a tall masted schooner. Beautifully unexpected.
I already had camera in hand taking pictures of the sunset, so when people began to rush onto the porch, I had my spot right in front.
That's when they fired the cannons. I guess that's what ships used to do as they came into port. But man, those suckers are loud. The first ship, and then the second ship began firing cannons. It definitely caught our attention!
As the ships were mooring, they called our name and we were shown to a table by the window, where we could continue to watch the activity on the ships while we waited for our crab dinners.
Have I mentioned that I love fresh cracked crab? One of my all-time favorite foods. Tonight I splurged and had Alaska King Crab legs. It was delicious and best of all, even having all the crab, dipping it in the melted butter, eating half the potatoes (I immediately threw half of them in the bucket sunk in the middle of the table for people's discarded shells) and the corn on the cob, when I got home to figure out points, I still had one point left over for the day.
The crab was wonderful. It was the second crab meal I'd had in two days. We bought a fresh crab at Farmer's Market yesterday and came home to split it for lunch. (My half weighed 10 oz and after I'd eaten the crab meat out of it and weighed the remaining shell, it still weighed 6 oz.)
Crab is the first thing I look for on a menu in a restaurant. I like it plain and unadulterated. I remember when I went out for crab in Maryland. I was excited because it was unlimited crab and they dumped this mountain of little crabs on the table. But they had Old Bay seasoning on them. All you could taste was Old Bay, none of that sweeet crab meat. I ate a lot (of course I ate a lot--I always eat a lot), but it was just like crunchy Old Bay. Not like the sweet dungeness crab of my childhood.
In the days when the kids worked for the City of Davis, Paul once worked a crab feed at the Veterans Memorial Building. When the dinner was over, they gave him the leftovers. We had a HUGE sack of crab. We were able to eat our fill every day for about three days just out of that sack. It was like finding our own private goldmine.
I grew up within walking distance of Fisherman's Wharf in the days before Fisherman's Wharf became such a garish tourist mecca. I can remember walking down to the wharf with my father, watching the fishing boats as they came in from their morning in the Bay (or the ocean), smelling the crab pots, where they were boiling the catch of the day.
In those days you could get a crab cocktail for a pittance. It came in a paper cup and was loaded with crab. Now you get a fraction for a fortune. I learned to love crab walking around Fisherman's wharf with my crab cocktail and the little oyster crackers.
When we lived in the Bay Area, I frequently bought fresh crab and learned how to clean it. Even all that yucky stuff inside the shell. But when we moved up here, the first time I saw fresh crab in the supermarket and bought it, I discovered it had been packed in brine, so there was none of that sweet crab taste I enjoy so much.
Now you can buy fresh crab here again, but you practically have to mortgage the house in order to buy some. I save my crab orgies for those special times when I find it on the menu of a restaurant
(or for those times when my mother buys it for me, as she has promised to do Wednesday night, when I spend the night with her. Now THAT is something to be thankful for, as we approach Thanksgiving!)