Getting a Little Crabby (Patty): Chesapeake Crab Culture

Everywhere you go, there’s one food that you have to try. If you don’t try it, you can’t really say you’ve been there. In the Chesapeake region, that food is crab.

It doesn’t matter which part of the Chesapeake region you’re in – you’ll be able to find crab. From crab cakes (like hamburger patties, but with crab meat) to whole soft shell crabs (just what it sounds like) to eggs Chesapeake (eggs Benedict with an added layer of crab meat), you’ll find something that floats your boat, even if, like me, you have an iffy relationship with seafood.


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Chincoteague proved no different from any other part of the Chesapeake region in that regard. Every restaurant we went into had crab prepared in at least two different ways on the menu, and the favorite restaurant in town was a good, old-fashioned crab shack.

When we did a boat tour around the island, our guide took us around to the different seafood harvesting points. He described in detail how each type of seafood was either cultivated or allowed to grow wildly, how they were harvested, and the best way to prepare and enjoy them. Naturally, crab made his list of foods to try on Chincoteague.

Our neighbor in the house we rented was also a crab enthusiast, and he gave us what proved to be the most popular suggestion for amusing ourselves of a lazy afternoon: crabbing.


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We went to the store and bought some chicken thighs, which we then put inside some crab traps that we found by the back deck of the house. We also tied some chicken to ropes that we also found, and, armed with a few nets, were ready to try our hand at crabbing.

As it turns out, the waters around Chincoteague are just as rife with crabs as everyone told us. We barely dipped the chicken thighs into the water before we got a tug from a wee little pincer. After that, all you have to do is haul the rope up and snag the little crustacean in a net.


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This entertained us for an afternoon, but, before anyone gets too worried about the crabs, they did not feed us. We decided to leave the actual preparation of the crab meat to the restaurants in town and set our little friends free.

Having seen how easy it is to catch crab around Chincoteague, there is no doubt in my mind that the crab meat in the restaurants around is as fresh as can be. And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, all you have to do is taste it.


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