I was running errands along busy Route 3 with stop-and-go traffic. At a stoplight, I looked over to see people lined up and waiting for hot steamed crabs. A makeshift operation in what used to be a small bank with drive-through windows, off to the side in a shopping center parking lot, is now the home for the Crab Man of DeCatur’s Crabs. I couldn’t resist pulling over to watch the action, instantly transported back to my childhood.
Growing up in the small town of Colonial Beach, Virginia, life was always linked with the water. In the 1920’s, my great-grandfather, Henry Clay Parker, began cooking steamed crabs in a big iron kettle over a wood fire near the edge of Monroe Bay. Eventually this small roadside stand grew into Parker’s Crab Shore – a family style restaurant with wooden picnic tables lined with oilcloth where hot crabs and cold beer were sold along with seafood platters and homemade potato salad and cole slaw. As kids, we dipped crabs from the pilings of the pier in front of the Crab Shore. Unlike today, crabs were plentiful and inexpensive and no one ever had to wait in line for them, though surely they are worth the wait – steamy and spicy, dipped in vinegar or melted butter and served with cheese and crackers alongside.
The Crab Man was kind enough to let me take a few pictures. And as much as I enjoyed the scene, it was really the smell of Old Bay Seasoning that carried me home.