Apparently, Seagull Tastes A Lot Like Chicken
Jonathan Livingstone I presume?
Crabbing at the Outer Banks
I thought I had seen everything. While on vacation with an old boyfriend and his friends in North Carolina I was informed that we were going crabbing. The main objective of this endeavor was to catch live food and boil it until it was dead and therefore edible. I am not one who enjoys meeting my food before I eat it. However, I had never gone crabbing and I wanted to add it to my life experiences. Perhaps I can put it on my resume someday.
The first step in this event was to visit a local food store to purchase bait and a ball of string. This seemed pretty remedial in the world of food procurement. Bait turned out to be chicken wings. I was beginning to get a sense that something was terribly wrong. As a Buffalonian I recognized chicken wings as a highly edible food from anonymous chickens that I never had to meet. Why not simply eat the chicken wings? I kept this observation to myself so I wouldn’t alienate my new friends.
After we purchased our bait we drove over to the sound side of the ocean vacation complex. The shallow brackish water was where we would find our prey. There were wooden docks that stretched out into the murky water with a gazebo at the far end. Ten of us marched out onto the dock with one pail and two crabbing nets. It was obvious to me that these people had done this before. We set up shop in the gazebo near the stairs that decended into the shallow water. Lengths of string were cut using a cigarette lighter. Everyone got a long length of string and a raw warm chicken wing. I was told to tie the string securely to the wing. I followed instructions and looked to the experts on placement and technique. Odd as it may seem, I had no previous experience trying a string to a chicken wing. I had tied up other meats for cooking purposes but that did not prepare me for this new adventure. I used a knot I learned in Girl Scouts before they gave me a dishonorable discharge for not minding the group leader. I followed intructions so that I would not shame my parents again by getting thrown out of my condo for not cooperating.
After securing the chicken wing to the string I was instructed to tie the other end of the string to my wrist and toss the chicken appendage into the water. The technique involved slowly dragging the wing along the bottom of the sound in the hopes that a crab, who did not know chicken was not indigenous to those waters, would decide it looked like lunch. The speculation was that the crab was not very bright. That turned out to be quite true. Once the crab grabbed the wing there was a slight tug on the string as the excited crustacean tried to scurry away to his designated eating area. When you felt the tug you alerted the net person that you had a crab. The net person slipped the net under the crab holding the chicken wing and scooped both into the pail. This was all fine and dandy except that in many cases the crab was smaller than the wing thereby rendering the crab useless as food. This increased my concern about why we were not simply eating the chicken wings.
At one point there were three crabs in the bucket of water. They were fighting and confused. In a humanitarian gesture I suggested that we give them one of the chicken wings to keep them amused. I also told my friends that it would act as a kind of last meal. My friends became suspicious of my seriousness in the crabbing venture. I saw the same look in their eyes that I saw in my scout master’s right before she asked me to leave.
Sea gulls gathered on the mooring pylons. They were very interested in our efforts. I inquired why we didn’t simply try to catch the sea gulls that seemed much larger and meatier looking than the crabs. When I wondered aloud what sea gull tasted like the group answered in unison “chicken.” The use of chicken to catch something that tasted like chicken was too bizarre to contemplate. I did not want to know how my friends knew about the taste of sea gull.
I had lots of time to think while I dragged my chicken wing along the water below the pier. While I looked down into the water I realized that a microscopic crab looked like a promising plump crab through the optical illusion created by the cloudy water. In a moment of panic I wondered what my thighs would look like from that perspective. I vowed never to swim anywhere where I could be viewed from above.
We collected a dozen blue crabs all living in harmony in the pail of water. Their calm almost meditative state was induced by the addition of the parting gift of a chicken wing. We were finally ready to give up our hunt. By this time our chicken wings looked like small remains of human floaters fished out the East River. I was no longer interested in eating them in that condition. We all untied our wings and tossed them into the sound. The sea gulls went wild and I’m sure they talked about this among themselves for weeks.
So what came next? If you guessed a crab feast you guessed wrong. My friends took a good look at the pathetic collection of scrawny crabs and dumped them back into the drink. All those crabs went home to their families with stories about how they had been abducted by aliens, kept in a cylindrical tank, observed for several hours and released. It’s all in the perspective. The humans were disappointed by their empty bucket, the sea gulls got a delightful unexpected chicken dinner, and our friends the blue crabs got the adventure of a lifetime. And me… I got a one liner for my resume in the “special interests” section: Aquatic wildlife rescue team.
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