Wednesday, February 08, 2006

we STILL pinch you with our feet

So it's no secret: I love seafood. When I think of seafood I probably have a different conception of it than most amero-cans do. The particular foodways of this country mandate that fish must be breaded, fried, drenched in sauce, disguised, improperly described or named, exoticized and overpriced. The foodways of my most oft-visited country, Japan, are such that fish is as common as mcnuggets are here if not more so. Every time I come back from Asia I hunger for fish. Halibut, crab, salmon, eel, whatever. You may think I'm just talking about sushi. I'm not. If you've been there, you feel me. If not, try picking up the book Tsukiji: Fish Market at the Center of the World by Ted Bestor. It's a great comparison of Amero-Japonic foodways and a great introduction to the fish market itself. Most Americans grew up conceiving of fish as something frozen and covered with bread crumbs that you eat with ketchup; or in the case of our Minnesotan citizens, fried pike. >shudder<. With an introduction like that you would have to grow up thinking fish was disgusting.

If you know me you also know that I'm not a stranger to helping myself to these delicacies directly from their homes; be it angling for mountain lake trout or digging for clams on a sand spit, if there's a fresh seafood meal in it I'm there. Once camping at Patrick's Point I clambered down onto the rocks, thumbing my nose to the surf that could have killed me at any time and pried off about a dozen mussels from the rocks. We steamed them up at our campsite, added some butter, garlic, and white wine and E and I had ourselves the best damned mussels of our lives. This is a good thing about her. I had a woman in my life before that I loved (and love) but I knew it would never work out when she told me she was allergic to fish. She's still in my life but forever relegated to friend-without-privileges status. Love me, love my fish.

It's with great ardor that I take to the seas every year around this time for crab season. I own several commercial-style and hoop-style crab pots and have been pulling up near-free delicacies from Davey Jones' locker for most of my life. When the fishing sucks I'll go out on a commercial boat, as mentioned in the post below. For less than forty bucks you can come home with about 80 bucks worth of crab (and a sunburn). I plan to do this next week.

Crabbing in California nets you dungeness (so named for a famous crabbing town in Washington state). Their bodies are about as wide as your hand is long (legally they have to be 5 3/4" across) and banana-length legs. A two pound dungie (pictured above, cooked) will yield one pound at most of flaky, tasty meat. This is the best we can hope to extract from the sea around these parts; the next best crab is the red or rock crab and it is a distant, distant second.

Not so the king crab. These huge bastards (up to 2m in length and 16kg in weight) truly are the kings of the crab world, both in size and taste. I have seen photos from Japan (in the Guinness book) of crabs with 11ft spans but these are truly leviathans and not to be considered normal. Lately I have been craving the meat of these crabs like mad. Our local dim sum shops have started carrying them in their tanks and they drive me crazy every time I see them. I want to snap off a leg and run screaming from the restaurant, not stopping till I get home, throw it into a pot and boil it, consume its flesh, then render its exoskeleton into stock. You can see I've thought this out. Penned every detail into my consciousness. I'm ready to pounce.

Why the hell don't I just go and buy one, you ask? We can't even get our local guys to quote us a price. No kidding. Yuet Foo, our favorite Chinese seafood restaurant, says they get a few in each year on special order but won't quote a price. They say they can't get one for less than 13 pounds. I say the more the merrier! What's a guy to do? When I go crabbing next week and pull up my pots full of comparatively tiny cangrejos I'll probably weep.

So, any info on suppliers in this area would be greatly appreciated.


Blogger chilebrown said...

International Market in San Pablo sells live Dungenous for a very reasonable price.(2.39/pd is the lowest I have seen). There used to be a vendor at the Walnut Creek Farmers Market that sold fresh cooked Alaskan King Crab Legs.I would like to go with you on the commercial crabbing trip. I like the rock cod/crab combo trips. Fresh cooked crab is like eating "BUTTER!!!"

8:18 AM  
Blogger Dr. Jones said...

Chile; I am sad to report that this is my birthday trip and we've chartered the boat (and filled it). However before the season ends why don't we go up there again?

1:26 PM  
Blogger chilebrown said...

If you would like to drop off a couple of birthday crabs at my house, I will understand. My birthday is the 27th. We could celebrate early with your catch of "Butta"

7:58 PM  
Blogger drbiggles said...

Damn man, is there anything you don't do or know?
Do you wear a pirate hat when fishing from the boat?


11:05 AM  
Blogger drbiggles said...

I was in Safeway yesterday, shudder. Had to get some juice for the kidlets and noticed the crab in their 'seafood' section.
I thought to myself, "While I believe these are crabs, I don't think this was what ol' Dr. Jones was dreaming of."

9:48 AM  
Blogger shuna fish lydon said...

I have officially moved to your side now. maybe I'll see you at the market?

10:43 AM  
Blogger Dr. Jones said...

YAY Shuna, where you living now? And are you interested in Dutch Ovens recreationally? There may be an article in the Chron in it where we can all publicize the trivialities of our blogs, etc. if I can get enough 'hip' people together for it.

1:58 PM  

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