I am from Maryland. Which inherently means I can take down a dozen or so blue crabs without batting an eye. I love the ritual: sitting for hours on some hot, sticky back porch, a perfect pile of crustaceans steaming on the newsprint in front of you and a cold beer handy for when the Old Bay spices get the best of you. I relish in the exquisite torture of pulling apart a crab piece by piece, meticulously picking and prying to retrieve the tiniest morsel of sweet meat.
Husaband, on the other hand, is from Maine. He’s used to finding the mother lode with one crack of a tail. His delicate hands can’t handle the fresh sting of red pepper and salt in all the nicks where the crab claw put up a fight. He often mistakenly eats the mustardy guts out of sheer hungry desperation. When he eats crustaceans, he’s looking for a bigger, faster payoff.
So when a friend recommended a little place up the street from us called Le Crabe Marteau (the crab hammer), we were intrigued. They promised newspaper covered tables and plenty of mallets to smash the living daylights out of your food (in Paris of all places!). But the crabs on tap were of a heartier stock than those delicate specimens from the Chesapeake: le torteau, which pretty much looks like a blue crab on steroids, and l’arraignee de mer, which is your basic spider crab. Plus they offered fresh oysters and langoustines (like crawfish) from Bretagne.
(All served, I might add, by a tanned French waiter with dreamy blue eyes, tousled blonde curls, a rustic, seafaring stubble and adorable striped shirt. Who happily obliged when I asked more than once to show me again how to crack the crabs open.)