are living in a different world than the generation
before us and the generations before that.
The once indelible four seasons tempo of natures
order has been, for the main, turned a type
of evergreen. One of the chief
reasons for this is the success of overnight
transportation systems. In the more insular
world before we dealt with only the seasonality
of latitudes as far south as Florida. Although
there were, for a long time, certain exceptions
of foods coming year round to our tables regardless
of season. Despite the success of bananas
and kiwis, which are blessed with the hardiness
to travel far distances without fatal damage,
things mostly came from within our own boundaries,
as they also did for centuries in Europe and
now crisscrosses continents, and we buy
a great deal of our foods from South America
and even some from Australia where the seasons
are the reverse of those here. Hothouse
agribusiness has also made year round harvesting
a facet of our modern times.
chefs and home cooks dont want to
accept the change and I cant blame
them. It is an accord with nature that is
being usurped, and while I cannot reverse
progress, I can delight in the fact that
some of the treasures of our table still
come to us only in their own dance with
time. They are the still wild children who
defy mans devices. Truffles, morels,
spawning salmon are still some comestibles
of this vanishing tribe. Another is the
Soft Shell Crab.
poet T.S. Eliot called April the cruelest
month of all as it mixed memory
with desire. Each April I wait for
the phone to ring and hear that mix of reverie
and lust when I hear my crab guy tell me,
the soft shells are in!
Shells refer to the precise moment in time
when a blue crab has a growth spurt and
literally busts out of its previous
sized shell, increases by an astonishing
1/3 in size and begin to form another shell
in what, one assumes, they trust will bring
another year (Not if a commercial crab fisherman
is at the ready for that magical moment!).
even humankind is not all alone in its enjoyment
of the soft shell crab. The hard-shelled
crabs will eat them if given half a chance.
the rites of spring
the call of the wild.
Norman Van Aken and thats my word
Copyright © by
Norman Van Aken, 2002
*Works consulted: A.J. Mc Clanes Encyclopedia
of Fish Cookery