My Great Stone Crab Adventure

Buddy Grimm stepped off his long, flat stone crab boat just as the sun began its last half-hour in the south Florida sky. He looked beat: reddened on his forearms and ears, his loose and tatteredoxford shirt stained by tobacco and sea salt. His three crabbers lifted the day's catch in large rectangle boxes filled to the top with pink-and-black stone crab claws. Looking at the catch, I thought of two things: 1) Would the poised and frightening claws come back to life if I touched one; and 2) Were a bunch of crabs swimming in circles out beyond Chokoluskee Bay?

I recently found out that I love stone crabs. I grew up going to the Panhandle, where grouper and scallops rule on menus, so stone crab claws were not a household seafood for me. Even until a few months ago, eating crabs of any kind seemed to me more work than dinner. That is until a week ago.

Southern Living is not a perfect place to work, but on some days I'd swear I have the best job in the world. Last Thursday was one of those days. We called Buddy's nephew Justin Grimm in Everglades City, about 50 feet from the docks where I first met the stone crab family, and we ordered 10 succulent pounds of south Florida stone crabs. A day later they were on my doorstep. Post photo-shoot --- look in your August SL for the image --- my friend Paul and I sat out on my patio with a Home Depot hammer, a plate of crab claws, a large fries from McDonalds, and ice-cold Corona. We cracked those suckers and dipped them in the mustard sauce until we'd had our fill. As we ate, I couldnt help but realize that not 48 hours earlier, Buddy was out checking his traps, harvesting the claws (one per crab), and blanching his catch on the docks. The meal was nearly as wonderful as the trip to Everglades City.

I suppose I owe a thank you to FedEx.

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