To truly inhabit a new place, one must dine on the local fare. Greg embraced this theory in South Carolina and immediately, set his crab pot in the water for a good three-day soak. Each day, he would send Wyatt out to count the blue crabs and Wyatt would bring back a full report.
“We’ve got four blue crabs, one stone crab and a croaker.” Greg released the stone crab, but placed the croaker in the bait trap.
“We’ve got seven blue crabs, one stone crab and a hermit crab.” Greg released the stone crab and I used the hermit crab for an ecosystems’ science lesson.
On the third day, Wyatt ran in, out of breath, and announced, “We’ve got fourteen blue crabs, some kind of wiry crab and an octopus!”
This was something new so we all took off for the pier. Sure enough, our crab trap held a gooey, squishy eight-legged octopus. Greg gently pulled it out and set it briefly on the pier for closer examination. We all stared, speechless. How could such an odd looking creature exist on our same planet? Its slick, burnt orange skin shimmered in the late afternoon sun. It lifted one tentacle revealing tiny suckers on its underside. Placing the tentacle back on the pier it lurched forward, trying to escape.
Anabel looked worried. “We’re not eating this, are we?”
“Not today, but take a picture, quick, before I put it back in the water. This is definitely going on Facebook!” said Greg. He shoved his phone in her hand and she clicked a few shots as the octopus clamored for the pier’s edge. Greg deftly lifted it up and tossed it back in the ocean.
“Have a good life, Mr. Octopus! Next time, stay away from our crabs or I won’t be so nice.” He hummed Octopus’s Garden as he and Wyatt loaded the blue crabs into our bucket. Greg was starting to let go of our old responsibilities and enjoy sabbatical life. Holding Emma’s hand as we made our way back to the house, I watched Greg’s shoulders relax as he told Wyatt and Anabel the ingredients he’d picked up in town for Frogmore Stew, tonight’s special dinner. (Frogmore Stew was invented in the Frogmore Community on nearby Saint Helena Island by shrimper, Richard Gay of Gay Seafood Company, when he was throwing together found ingredients for fellow National Guardsmen in the 1960s. Everyone liked it so much, he shared the recipe; today, many consider it the unofficial dish of South Carolina.)
“You need: 2-3 heads of garlic, 2-3 onions, 2-3 lemons, a box of Old Bay seasoning and a packet of Zatarain’s Crab Boil. You put all that in a big pot and set it to boiling.”
“When do you put in the sausage? That’s my favorite part,” asked Wyatt.
“Not yet. Next, you add to the water: 3 pounds of small red potatoes. After about 20 minutes, you add 6 ears of corn- cut in half, a pound of Andouille sausage- cut in sections and as many blue crabs as you can catch. And last, you add the shrimp- 2-3 pounds depending on how many you're feeding. Immediately, put the lid on and cut the heat off.”
“Do the shrimp cook that fast?” asked Anabel.
“Yep. As soon as they hit the hot water, they’ll start turning pink. When they’re all pink, it’s time to eat. Remember, the two things most people do wrong are they under season and overcook."
“I’m hungry,” said Emma. “When’s dinner?”“You’re always hungry,” I said giving her a huge hug and adding, "Soon!"
*Always serve Frogmore Stew (also known as Low Country Boil) with crusty French bread, cocktail sauce-heavy on the horseradish, a nice bottle of white wine for the adults and sweet tea for the kids.