Wait For It… a blog by Andy Ross

Soft-Shell Crab

Posted on May 23, 2011

Soft-Shell Crab

Son, I want you to promise me something: You're eighteen now, ready to go off to college. You've got your whole future ahead of you. I don't want you to make the same mistake that I made. Never look up what makes soft-shell crab soft-shelled.

Believe me, you don't want to know. You never want to know. Because, soft-shell crab is delicious. Oh my god, a soft shell crab sandwich with a little fresh frisée, some spicy aioli, maybe a touch of churrasco---it doesn't get any tastier than that.

But, once you find out what soft shell crab really is, you won't be able to eat it ever again. Never again.

Let me tell you about the day I learned what soft-shell crab was. I was about your age, bright-eyed and innocent, saving up for trade school. I was out with some friends eating at a seafood stand up along the coast. (This is when I was working for your great uncle’s sporting goods warehouse up in Maine.) I was exactly four bites into just about the tastiest soft shell crab sandwich you can imagine.

I can still remember every detail---a light dijon dressing, ripe tomato, sweet onions, center-cut bacon. And, just as I get the fifth bite into my mouth, my so-called "friend" Eddie Fratelli tells me what soft-shell crab really is. I tell you, son, it dissolved into ashes in my mouth.

To this day, I can't even walk past a restaurant serving soft-shell crab without getting a lump of disgust in my throat.

I can see that I've piqued your interest. I know what it's like to be a young buck full of machismo, thinking you can take on the world. You probably assume you can handle knowing why soft-shell crab is soft-shelled. You can't.

That's why I'm going to give you a little hint and hope that keeps you from exploring any further on your own. Here it is: Shells are hard; they protect the crab. But, they don't grow, do they? That's it, that's all I'm gonna say.

Promise me you won't investigate beyond that. I can't imagine my only son never being able to eat soft-shell crab again. That fear keeps me up at night. Well, that and the image of soft-shell crabs seared into my brain.

So, promise me right now that you won't go any further down that road. Do you promise? I said, DO YOU PROMISE?!

There, that's all I needed to hear. I trust you; you’re a good kid.

Oh, and I just remembered, also promise you won't look up any YouTube videos of crabs molting their shells, because I think you might be able to guess the rest from there...

... All those disgusting little ocean spiders shedding their protective armor … floating around like twitching wet marshmallows … pink and puffy, like they just herniated themselves out of their own bodies…

… I’m sorry. I got distracted. Anyway, hope I didn’t give too much away. You go out and enjoy those soft-shell crab sandwiches, and try not to think about it too much.

I love you, son.