Tripper: Attention. Here's an update on tonight's dinner. It was veal. I repeat, veal. The winner of tonight's mystery meat contest is Jeffrey Corbin who guessed "some kind of beef."
I’m pretty sure it’s a law in Maryland that if you come here, you must eat crab.
Restaurants are pretty much bound to have crab in some form or other on their menus. It doesn’t even matter much what the base cuisine of the restaurant is, You Must Have Crab. Crab cakes, crab soup, crab dip, crab pretzels (big honkin’ soft pretzels with crab dip all over them), and so on. Many restaurants around here actually keep Old Bay seasoning on the tables alongside the salt and pepper. In my head, this whole emphasis on crab tends to dilute its specialness, but what the hell. It’s the local thing.
Crab, however, does tend to get expensive, especially if you’re buying packages of pre-picked meat. A pound of crabmeat costs roughly $15 in the supermarket, although you might be able to get a slightly cheaper version if you’re willing to settle for all claws or some such. The pricey stuff is the Jumbo Lump, which comes from the back end of the crab and is especially prized if it’s removed as one huge chunk. (“One Huge Chunk” defined as being about the size of a gumball.)
But once in awhile you can’t even afford the cheap claw meat, or you just want a little texture, or perhaps you want to use, god forbid, something akin to Alaskan King Crab rather than Maryland Blue but don’t want to pay for the Alaskan, which is even more expensive. What do you do? What DO…you do?
The answer, in this case, is something called Krab (yes, with a K—shut up, spellcheck). Krab, which is sometimes accurately referred to as “imitation crab”, is typically made of a substance called surimi. Surimi is typically made up of hake, whiting and/or pollock, which is rinsed repeatedly to remove unpleasant odors, then it’s beaten and pulverized into a gelatinous paste. Add a few enhancers like starch, egg white, MSG and a few other goodies, then the whole mixture is extruded through a form, like a Play-Doh Fun Factory and then given a touch of food coloring to make it look something like the real thing.
All of the above is just a gateway to get you to understand the story of the word Krab. “Krab” isn’t Crab, dig? It’s Frankenfood, an artificial construct, dig?
After living in Maryland for nearly ten years, I’ve gotten to deal with another food besides an abundance of crab (and Krab). The other food that’s popular around here is something called Scrapple. This is something that, when I lived in New York, I’d never heard of. But Wife eats the stuff, and so did her late grandmother. Scrapple is hard to explain, so let me leave it to Wikipedia, which is about as nice a description as I’ve seen:
Locally called "everything but the oink" or made with "everything but the squeal", scrapple is typically made of hog offal, such as the head, heart, liver, and other scraps, which are boiled with any bones attached (often the entire head), to make a broth. Once cooked, bones and fat are discarded, the meat is reserved, and (dry) cornmeal is boiled in the broth to make a mush. The meat, finely minced, is returned to the pot and seasonings, typically sage, thyme, savory, black pepper, and others, are added. The mush is formed into loaves and allowed to cool thoroughly until set. The proportions and seasoning are very much a matter of the region and the cook's taste.
Seriously…the making of scrapple was actually featured on Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. And Mike Rowe comes from a neighborhood just a couple of miles from my house. So even some of the locals think this stuff is pretty gross.
So imagine my horror when I found myself in a supermarket, and I came across this:
Skrapple? With a K? Really? What the hell could possibly be going into this product that they can’t legally call it Scrapple?