Friday, April 11, 2008

Growing Up and Soft-Shelled Crabs.

Having my parents visiting for a week has unexpectedly kicked the internal philosophizing into motion. Especially with Do out of town at his conference, it feels like the three of us are walking a very fine line between 2008 and 2001.

Okay, that may not seem like much, but in 2001 I was 16. A pretty independent and headstrong teenager, I had good relationships with my parents, was free to proceed about my life and the city more or less unquestioned, and avoided most “common space” chores (making dinner, cleaning, lunches) because it didn’t feel like my “domain.” The parents knew how to do that sort of stuff -- what if I did a chore wrong and got corrected? I would probably have gotten indignant (“hey, I was trying to do you a favor!”), there would have been a fight… why risk that? I stuck with tidying, walking the dog, setting the table, and verbalizing appreciation at dinner time. Anything that required independent thought, I left to them. It just seemed easier that way (and, like all teenagers, I was lazy!).

In 2008, I’m 23. I’ve lived outside of my parents’ home for 5 years, two of those in a one-bedroom apartment with Do. We’re adults now, and it’s our home. We make executive decisions about cleaning, using up leftovers, mending, etc. We know to spontaneously grab a cleaning product if the bathroom floor looks questionable. So we don’t wash our sheets every week or swifter as often as we should, but our home is usually reasonably tidy and the kitchen is always clean. I'm an adult now.

So living with my parents over the course of the past week in my teeny apartment has prompted a lot of new scenarios: How much can my parents clean my apartment before it goes from extremely generous to intrusive? How can I be a gracious recipient of this generosity without reverting to the lazy teenager who assumes that the kitchen will be cleaned and the dinner prepared by the parents? (Note, I haven't done anything in the kitchen more laborious than sitting and chatting all week). When I come home from a long day at work and they have the house cleaned and dinner prepared, well, who is hosting whom?

I guess that’s it: it’s freakin’ hard to follow the standard scripts of host and guests when it’s a child and her parents. This may just be a post-collegiate thing, but I doubt it. I bet that time and age allow you to write new scripts for yourselves, but I bet that the standard ones never fit. They’re your PARENTS after all, how can they be GUESTS?

Of course, being in your early twenties also means that you HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE DOING half the time (There, I admitted it, ha! See if you can coax a similar statement out of your teenagers!) and, unlike when you were a teen, you recognize that you really need to learn how to sew on a button/use the broiler/do your taxes. No one is going to take care of my chores if I surrepticiously avoid them because I don't know how (though I did try to shove off my taxes on D this year... but he's off at that darn conference!). What a relief to have Mom and Dad physically present to guide me through, step by step.

For example, this week I had my first encounter with soft-shelled crab.

When we were exploring the Dupont Farmer’s Market on Sunday, the very last stand was selling flounder and soft-shelled crab. The gentleman explained to us that we’re about 3 weeks early for soft-shelled crab, but that he was selling some that he caught last season and froze. Sure, why not? We picked up three to go with our morels and waltzed off.

Now, I’ve been to a crab feast before, where you buy a heap-o-steamed crabs from the fish market, cover the (outdoor) table with newspaper, and go at them with hammers and picks. Brute force, baby! You pick out your meat, avoiding the intestines and the shell parts. It's disturbingly fun. But the thought of taking a whole crab, a WHOLE crab, and chomping on it, seems kind of weird. Maybe that’s why most folks hide soft shelled crabs in sandwiches.

But my Mom took care of it all. She knew how to season it, how to bread it, how long to cook it, and executed the whole thing in about 5 minutes flat. It would have taken me 1 hour of research, 30 minutes of preparation, and five minutes of hyperventilating over the thought of the whole crab. As it was, I had the whole thing on my plate before I thought to get nervous.

And they were great! This was crab, with no distractions: no sandwich, no shell, no cool hammer. Breaded & sautéed for texture, but still the creamy crab meat inside. No stress. Eye-grabbing presentation. The crabs themselves were a little tough and chewy, which probably means that they were caught and frozen late last season. No problem: in three weeks, when soft shelled crabs ARE in season, I’ll know what to do with them.

Thanks, Mom.


Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm) said...

From what I read on your post, you like thinking outside the box when it comes to food. Well done, always refreshing to find interesting stuff...

Kate said...

I am feeling so old right about now....