Whenever we spend the holidays with my relatives in northern California, we eat Dungeness crab on Christmas Eve. I can’t remember when the tradition was started, but when Brandon and I got together, I introduced him to it. He was still mostly a vegetarian then, and he’d never tasted crab, but he was curious about it – enough to grab a couple of crab legs and, however awkwardly, get himself around them. He took to it fast. This year, we spent Christmas in Seattle, on our own, and we decided to continue the Christmas Eve crab tradition, since Washington is the state that gave Dungeness crab its name. It felt fitting. Plus, Brandon announced, he had a plan: he would catch our crabs himself.
I told my mother about this plan a few weeks ago, when she came to visit for a long weekend. Molly, she breathed, that’s SO romaaaaaantic. I agreed. But I also knew that, because neither Brandon nor I had crabbed before, there was a decent chance that we would come home with nothing. Or that we would fall out of the boat while trying to lower down the traps, die of hypothermia, sink to the bottom of the ocean, be eaten by vengeful crabs, and never come home at all.
That was when I suggested that Brandon drop a line to our friend Renee, who’s a seasoned crabber, to see if she might be up for a Christmas Eve outing.
Renee checked the tide tables, and last Saturday, around noon, we met her and her dad Jim at the boat launch at Port Susan. We pushed off. The water was rough, and Jim bobbed and weaved, putting bait in the traps.
Renee ate a faceful of water.
But one at a time, they got the traps in, feeding the ropes down down down, until they felt them settle on the bottom.
Once the traps were down, there was nothing to do but wait.
We tied up on a strip of beach where Alice could run, and while Brandon and I arranged some life preservers-slash-seat cushions along a wet log, Renee produced a Thermos of delicata squash-and-leek soup, a bottle of prosecco, paper cups, and a dozen salted chocolate cookies.
(For the record, I will never again leave home without Renee.)
When the soup was gone and the prosecco was gone and Alice had run approximately four dozen laps of our log, it was time to check the traps.
Sunset was due to come at 4:22 that day. We hurried.
When you bring in a crab, the first thing to do is to check its sex, and then return any females to the water. Then you check the size of your remaining haul: to be kept legally, a Dungeness crab must be at least 6 ¼ inches across. This one was a runt.
If you want to geek out about the nuts and bolts of recreational crabbing, or go crabbing someday in Washington State, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website is the place for you. Also, note: there will be a lot of seagulls, and if you have any uneaten bait left when you haul in the traps and head back to shore, THEY WILL WANT TO EAT IT.
Unless a bald eagle makes a sudden, swooping appearance on the horizon, and then the gulls will unanimously decide, Oh, ha ha! Silly us! She can have it! And flee.
I’ve never had a better Christmas Eve.
We caught only two crabs that met the legal size limits, and Renee and Jim insisted that we take them. After we left, they went to a grocery store to get some for themselves. Another year, I hope, we can make it up to them. Maybe in 2012.
Happy New Year, friends.
P.S. Our friend Becky Selengut made a fantastic video about how to cook and clean a Dungeness crab. It’s a great resource.
In my better moments
About three weeks ago, I printed out all the drafts I’ve written so far for my next book, and then I spent three weeks avoiding reading them. I finally got up the courage on Sunday night. I poured myself a beer, sat down at the dining room table, and read through all of it. Afterward, I wanted to stab myself in the eye. But that didn’t seem like it would make the manuscript any better, so I went to bed. I woke up at five the next morning. While I lay there in the dark, thinking about the injustice of being awake at such an hour on my day off, I remembered how rough and horrible my drafts were, and…Read more
To poach a pear
My mother is usually the one who makes poached pears. I have a photo of her in an old family album, holding a platter of them. By the length of her hair, I’m guessing that the year was 1982. My father must have snapped the picture as they were leaving for a holiday party. That was the kind of thing he liked to do. She’s standing in the wood-paneled den of the house we lived in until I was 13, wearing what appears to be a sand-colored fur jacket. She must have curled her hair with hot rollers, because it sits on her shoulders in soft loops, and where she’s pinned it back above her left ear, you can see…Read more
It’s my specialty
Hi. I am writing this from my in-laws’ kitchen. Brandon is out on a bike ride with his dad. THEY’RE BOTH WEARING SPANDEX!!!! It’s a great day to be in New Jersey. Before the holiday sets in, while it’s still relatively quiet in the house, I wanted to share a recipe with you. I should say first that it’s not for Thanksgiving. I know you already have plenty of that. What we have here is something for this weekend, or next week. More specifically, what we have here is the soup that I will be eating over and over and over again, lunch after lunch and dinner after dinner, for months to come. The New Winter Favorite. I can tell…Read more
We’ve arrived at the end of my trip. The last walk. The way I remember it, the wind was blowing like mad. I have no idea how these pictures came out looking so peaceful. Christophe and Gemma led the way through Holyrood Park, along the skirt of Arthur’s Seat. Another time, I want to climb to the top. I’ll have to go back. I think I could live in Edinburgh. Next lifetime, maybe. Hope your week is off to a good start.Read more
To those of you who advised me to go to Scotland: YOU WERE SO RIGHT. I get it now. In order to get there, I had to endure a bout of verbal abuse from a disgruntled airline employee whom I will henceforth remember as Psycho EasyJet Guy, but I made it. My friends greeted me in Edinburgh with a bag of Mini Cheddars, and shortly after, there was a homecooked meal and a long sleep on a very comfortable air mattress, and then I fell in love with Scotland. Christophe and Gemma, my friends in Edinburgh, are good walkers. I admire that quality. They might say, Let’s go for a walk, and you’ll be out for six hours. We spent…Read more
I come from a family that goes to church only on occasional Christmas Eves, but somehow, I have come to love the feeling of being inside a church. I like the high ceilings, the wood and the stone and the gold leaf, and I like them best when they’re empty. There’s no other silence like it. My favorite church is in Paris, and it’s called Saint-Sulpice. I first loved it because my grandmother loved it, but now I love it because I do. I never forget to go to Saint-Sulpice. I usually go on a weekday, when it’s quiet, and I make sure that I have some coins on me, so that I can light a candle. My grandmother used…Read more
I sat down to write this post last night at a kitchen table in Edinburgh. My friend Gemma was making barley soup, and Christophe was at the sink behind me, doing the last dishes from breakfast. If you had told me three weeks ago that I would be in their kitchen last night, I would have looked at you like you’d grown a second head. For once, I like being wrong. We’ve been talking about a feeling that sometimes comes with plane or train travel, and maybe the best name for it is Bonus Time. You’re in the plane or the train, and you can see the world outside the window, and you’re hurtling through it, but it’s very far…Read more
October 16, 17
I love the mistakes that come with using film. Often, I like the mistakes more than the shots that turn out. That’s part of why I started shooting film. For the surprises. Whenever I pick up a roll at the lab, it’s like Christmas morning. Of course, it’s sometimes a sad Christmas, like the year when I found two sweatshirts in the box that I was sure contained a Cocker Spaniel puppy. But I’m learning to take what I can get. My friend Gemma has the most beautiful hands. I will never have hands like that. And while we’re on the topic of beauty, two words: bacon and sandwich. I hope your week is off to a very good start,…Read more
Hi, friends. I’m in Paris now. I know I just typed that as though it were nothing, but what I meant was: I’M IN PARIS NOW! That sentence should always be written in all caps, with an exclamation point. I took the train down from London on Wednesday, and I’ve been staying with a friend. From where I’m sitting on the pullout sofa in her living room, I can hear a moped in the square outside and Night Moves on the stereo in the kitchen. She and her husband are sitting in there, at the counter. He’s doing a crossword puzzle, tapping his fingers in time. They’ve been good to me. I shot a whole roll of film in twenty…Read more
When I was eighteen, I took my first big trip without my parents, and before I left, my mother suggested that I pack a nice notebook to use as a journal. In my normal life, I’ve never been a journal-keeper, but I took her advice, and for roughly fifteen years now, every time I’ve taken a substantial trip, I’ve kept a record of my days. Sometimes I’m a real champ, and I’ll write down every detail: what I overheard in line at the museum, how much I paid for such-and-such, which subway station I was leaving when that handsome man smiled at me and my heinous pink-and-white polka dot umbrella, or, tragically, which subway line I was on when I…Read more
You’re lucky, she told me.
Hi, friends. This is not the post I had expected to write next. In my head, there were going to be cheers, an obscene number of exclamation points, and maybe a picture of the evening street outside our apartment in Paris. But due to sad and unforeseen circumstances, our Paris Diary project has been postponed. I don’t know how I even managed to type that sentence, because I hardly believe what it says. Your support for this project blew me away, and I can’t tell you how sad I am. I was due to fly out of Seattle this past Wednesday, go to London to see my friend Brian, and then take the train down to Paris on Sunday. Because…Read more
I first met my friend Maria in 2005. She had a blog then called port2port – maybe you remember it? – and I can’t remember who found who, but at some point, we started reading each other’s sites. She lives in Portland, Maine, but that fall, she came to Seattle to visit a friend, and we went out for doughnuts and had a drink at the Alibi Room, my favorite bar back then. I was nervous to meet her, because I admired her: her photography, her style, the quiet way she writes, the details she notices in her daily life. I remember feeling amazed by how creative she was, by the fact that she made a living through creative work.…Read more
Out on this limb
I was planning to start this post with something about food, because that’s the way these things usually work. But I can’t seem to start much of anything, because this is sitting next to my chair. This is Alice. As of last Friday, she has turned our family of three into a family of four. She is nine months old and weighs about 35 pounds, and though we have no idea what breed she is, we’re guessing some kind of pointer mixed with something else. Possibly a Muppet. Our friend Sam named her Peter Falk, which we changed to Mrs. Peter Falk before eventually settling on Alice, which was the name of Peter Falk’s first wife (though we changed the…Read more
No frosting, no ceremony
We left our window open last night, and when I woke up today, there was rain on the sill! I am wearing a scarf that I made! Let the hoarding of plums commence! What I thought about saying next was, “The citrus is coming! The citrus is coming!” (In the privacy of my own head, I spout this kind of garbage the way Old Faithful does boiling water.) I decided against it, but during the thirty seconds when I was considering and then reconsidering, I remembered a walk I took with the dog a few weeks ago. A little boy down the street was having a birthday party, and from the skull-and-crossbones flags tied to the laurel hedge along the…Read more
Not a tomato sandwich
So, I turned 33 a couple of days ago. And Brandon, who was but a pup of 23 when I met him, turned 30 a few days before that. Thirty! The staff at Delancey wrote BRANDON TURNS OLD TODAY on the chalkboard and spelled out OLD BOSS in alphabet magnets on the ice machine. He told me that he hasn’t thought much about being in his thirties, but I think he secretly likes the idea. I’m on the fence sometimes, but mostly, I do too. In any case, thank you for your patience. In my absence from this space, there was a return flight from Ohio, writing, more writing, payroll, a birthday cake, a big project for a friend, and…Read more
I am writing to you today from my friend Ben’s dining room. If you’ve been around for a while, you might remember that he used to live in Seattle, where he was like a Kramer to us, but he moved away for a job. Now he’s in Ohio, and for a week, so am I. I needed to get some work done on Book 2, and I missed my friend, so I rolled the two into one and called it a writing retreat. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but turns out, it’s like summer camp – only there are no counselors to keep us down, and instead of doing archery and riding horses and gathering around the campfire…Read more
A real thrill
I’m going to tell it to you straight. When I got to the last step of this recipe and looked at the tower of dirty bowls and saucepans in the sink, I thought, This had damn well better be the best frozen yogurt the universe has ever seen. I’m not sure I would go quite that far. But it’s a very, very, very good frozen yogurt. And I can tell you that it feels especially right when eaten from a teacup, if that doesn’t make you feel too prissy. It was a happy discovery for me, because in this house, the teacups otherwise sit in the cabinet and grow cobwebs. In other words: I’m glad I made it. This recipe…Read more
It still surprises me
So. I think it would be fair to say that your comments on my last post made me very, very happy. It feels much less lonely in here, and I have you to thank for that. More than anything, I just love that we can talk about this kind of stuff. When I first started writing here, more than seven(!) years ago now, I had no idea where this weird blog thing of mine would go. It still surprises me. I’m glad you’re here, and I’m glad I am, too. It also surprises me how many totally so-so recipes I tried last week. Absolutely nothing worth telling you about. So-so chicken, so-so apricots, so-so beans. And then, while I was…Read more
How we do what we do
I’ve been out of town for the past week, helping with preparations for my cousin’s wedding in Oakland, and the whole time I was gone, I had the strangest feeling. It took me a long time to figure out what it was, because I’d never felt it before. Turns out, I missed writing. No offense to my cousin and her new husband. Those people know how to throw a party, the kind that blows out an amp and a subwoofer. But I missed writing. I missed writing! I know that probably seems like a perfectly normal thing to feel, given that writing is what I do. But the truth is, most of the time, I will do anything to avoid…Read more
You don’t forget
I may be too late for strawberries. I worry about that. But on the off chance that you can still get them where you live, and that they’re still worth eating, I will say: you should try this. And hurry. If it helps to get you out of the chair – because I can see that you’re still sitting there; I have powers – repeat after Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer: “a conserve of soft berries in a barely set syrup.” A conserve of soft berries in a barely set syrup! A conserve of soft berries in a barely set syrup!!!!!!! GO. Before we start, I should admit to a problem, and that problem is jam. I love to make…Read more
I wish them a lifetime
I mentioned last week that I had been away at a wedding, Luisa’s wedding, and a number of you wrote that you were eager to see pictures. I felt a little unsure about posting them, to be honest, because it was her wedding day and hers to share, but she says that I can go for it. Here we are. Luisa was one of the first friends I made through blogging. I guess it was about six years ago, give or take a bit. That was when Brandon was still living in New York, and I would go there to see him every couple of months. Luisa was still living in New York then, too. She and I had exchanged…Read more
I could talk about the weather
I woke up this morning and found the house entirely wrapped in fog. If you stood in front of the window in the kitchen, where I stand to make my coffee, you could watch it blow up the street in gusts – sometimes wisps, sometimes great puffs. I called Brandon over to see it when he woke up, and even half asleep, he managed a moderately enthusiastic WOW, which surprised me. The fog horns were blowing. And now, a couple of hours on, the sun is out, searing through it, working its way steadily across the floor. I could talk about the weather all day. I am turning into an old man. The dog does his morning walk of the…Read more
This one’s coming with me
On a Sunday night in June, you are required, by cosmic law, to make strawberry shortcake. I don’t know if you knew that. I just found out. There’s apparently a similar law for July, only it governs tomato-and-mayonnaise sandwiches. You’ve been warned. Last week, we had two friends visiting from Scotland. Whenever we have visitors, I tend to want to take them to lots of restaurants, because that seems like the best way to show them our city, but when jet lag is involved, it feels mean to force anyone to sit upright or speak in complete sentences after approximately mid-afternoon. So on Sunday night, after a morning visit to the farmer’s market and a long walk down to Golden…Read more
Such is the power
Let the record show that, I, Molly Wizenberg, have, in this lifetime, made some ugly deviled eggs. Maybe this picture is the better approach. I seem to have come down with some sort of virus, the kind of thing that feels totally out of place in the month of June, that keeps you in your bathrobe, eating mostly toast and canned peaches, for the better part of five days. To be perfectly honest, I can’t say that I feel like eating a deviled egg right now. But I did manage to eat a bowl of cereal this morning, and that is a great improvement. I even felt well enough for a cup of coffee! Maybe, by the time you…Read more
Your efforts will be rewarded
Listen, I know it’s a holiday weekend. Most of you are probably outside, grilling or picnicking or generally engaged in some form of early-summer eating. In fact, as I type this, I can hear my neighbors on their deck, shaking a bag of charcoal briquettes, talking about Neil Diamond. But what I would like to tell them (aside from, HAVE MERCY! NO NEIL DIAMOND TONIGHT!), and you, too, is this: do your future self a favor and go inside and cook a pot of rice. Also, do whatever you have to do to get some Napa cabbage kimchi. Come midweek, your efforts will be rewarded. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get around to writing about kimchi…Read more
We have some progress
This city has taken its sweet time in getting rid of winter, but I am happy to report that, as of this writing, it is 61 degrees and sunny. Actually, what it really is is 61 degrees and S!U!N!N!Y! At last, we have some progress. We ate lunch outside yesterday. Last night, we came out of a restaurant at nearly ten, and there was still a royal blue glow, the last dregs of sunset, along the western horizon. The pink dogwood tree in the front yard is (sort of) in bloom! The backyard is a jungle! I have no idea how to garden! Everything feels like it’s opening up and starting over. Today, in celebration of all that, I want…Read more
Pile it on
Let’s get it out of the way right now: this egg salad, the one we’re going to talk about today, is not a beautiful egg salad. There will be no sexy pictures of this egg salad. There will not even be vaguely winsome pictures of this egg salad. There will be no pictures at all of this egg salad. But it has other things going for it, like the way it tastes, and if push comes to shove, you can always eat it in the dark. A couple of weeks ago, I got an e-mail from a new friend, telling me about this egg salad. She’d found the recipe in the April issue of Saveur, the sandwich issue, where it…Read more
How it is
I think I might have told you about my father’s friend Michael. Sometime in the early ‘90s, Burg was on his way out of the grocery store, and being something of a car buff, he stopped to check out a Citroën in the parking lot. While he stood there with his grocery bags, the owner of the car came along – or maybe the owner was in the car; these details are long gone – and he turned out to be a man named Michael. They struck up a conversation, and something must have clicked, because for years after that, they were best friends. Michael was a native New Yorker, a former cab driver-slash-writer turned small business owner, intense and…Read more
Have your way
Quick! It’s almost Thursday, but if you act fast, you can still have a Week to Remember: Step 1: On your day off, clean the apartment you just moved out of. Don’t forget to grab that last load of laundry from the dryer, the way I almost did. And when you sweep the basement, be sure to accidentally dump the entire contents of the dust pan into the bag of clean laundry from the dryer, the way Brandon did. Step 2: Go back to your new home. Feel both triumphant and defeated. Take a shower. Apply a bathrobe. Drink two glasses of cheap prosecco with Campari and a squeeze of orange. Now: try to make it to the dinner table…Read more