St. Michaels, Maryland: Part 1

In terms of feeling better about life in general, let's face it, vacation works. So much so that I’d like to shoot a commercial for it. It'd be like one of those psuedo-spiritual, super general ads you watch and aren’t sure what’s being pitched until the very end when white letters appear over a calm scene and spell out Nike. Or Cotton. Or Cialis. But at the end of my commercial, that word would be vacation.
This vacation began with a wedding. These guys below? Why, they're the Manhattan boys, of course, pictured clutching their signature drink, The Manhattan.
The following morning it was onward and eastward to St. Michaels, Maryland where we would be staying for the week in a beautiful house sitting on a 160 acre farm on the Chesapeake Bay.
(This is what humidity looks like.)

When the owner of the house stopped by to show us how to use the fairly intense stereo system, he told us that he'd built the house so that the front faced the bay. Matt took the below photo from a kayak-in-motion. The place could probably be described as pretty, no?
Being on the Chesapeake, I had major designs on a crab-related attempt. In fact, that's what I'm thinking about here in my temporary Ina Garten-esque kitchen. So when the owner also told us about the crab pots at the end of our dock, Matt and my heads nearly exploded. You have what now? Tell us more. This sounds like a job for the Manhattan boys. Do you have bitters and a jigger of vermouth?
We quickly learned the ropes of dockside crabbing. Step 1: Purchase chicken necks. Step 2: Fill the pots with our newly acquired chicken necks. Step 3: Give the pots an overnight soak. Step 4: Check the pots early in the morning for terrapins. If you see a terrapin, set it free. No questions asked. Step 5: If you see crabs, grab them with gloved hands and put them in a green bucket, filled with bay water. Also, by no means kick in more than two pots—each dock is allowed two, any more and the professional crabbers will come by and cut your ropes!
This next part was the trickiest. We had to kill them. David Foster Wallace's essay, "Consider the Lobster" immediately came to mind. Namely, the part where he asks: "Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?" Well, having been firmly faced with this task for the first time in my life, I can tell you that it certainly didn't feel all right, which is strange for any number of reasons, but particularly so considering that just the other week I basked in the retelling of the deliciousness of linguine and clams—fundamental to which, is the killing of live clams.

A few pages later, however, Foster Wallace offers this: "The whole animal-cruelty-and-eating issue is not just complex, it's also uncomfortable. It is, at any rate, uncomfortable for me, and for just about everyone I know who enjoys a variety of foods and yet does not want to see herself as cruel or unfeeling. As far as I can tell, my own main way of dealing with this conflict has been to avoid thinking about the whole unpleasant thing." And see, that's the problem with a live crab or lobster. The fact that they are moving and you are the one that is going to stop them from moving ever again makes this notion of you as a cruel or unfeeling person unavoidable. But if we want to eat them, we should, at least in some circumstances, be able to deal with this unpleasantness. Otherwise, we shouldn't be eating them at all, right?

In the end, we killed them. They didn't move around for long. And yes, they were delicious. And yes, it feels wrong to say that. However, I feel I've made some awkward strides in the never-ending journey of understanding the food I eat and where it comes from and tried my best to honor the lives of those blue crabs. Now, can we please talk about the corn? Oh, the corn! The Mexican-style roasted corn! I loved it so much.

There were so many reasons to love this corn. For starters, there was no moral dilemma tied to it. Secondly, it was covered in mayonnaise and topped with cheese, cilantro, chile powder, and lime juice. It was both indulgent and fresh-tasting at the same time, and our amazingly cute nephew, Henry, unexpectedly boasted a perfect toe point during the grilling process.
So much more to come. Stay tuned for St. Michaels, Maryland: Part 2!

Mexican-Style Roasted Corn via Saveur
serves 4

4 large ears corn, with husks still attached
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups crumbled cotija cheese (We substituted shredded cheddar.)
4 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
4 tsp. ancho chile powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black
pepper, to taste
1 lime, cut into four wedges

1. Working with one ear of corn at a time, peel back the husks to expose the kernels, leaving husks attached at the base; remove the silk threads and tie husks together with kitchen twine around base of cob to form a handle. Repeat with remaining ears. (We didn't do this step and it turned out all right.) Transfer corn to a large bowl or pot of water and let soak for 30 minutes. FYI: this includes the husks! (We only soaked the corn and the husks kept catching fire on the grill.)

2. Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill over medium-high heat. Transfer corn to grill; cook, turning occasionally, until charred and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove corn from grill and brush with mayonnaise. Place cheese on a plate and roll each ear of corn in cheese to coat. Sprinkle corn evenly with some of the cilantro, chile powder, and salt and pepper, pressing the corn so that seasonings and cheese will adhere to the mayonnaise. Serve with lime wedges.
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Matthew said...

So much fun. Wish we were still there!

Mary Anne said...

Oh DANG, that looks like good corn! What a lovely vacation that must have been! GREAT post. I loved every word and can't wait for Part II!

Jessica said...

That place looks like Heaven! I've been to St. Michaels & remember loving those Maryland crabs, so cool that you guys caught your own. Also, the toe point is too much! LOL.

manthy said...

Looks Yummy - Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos with us.

Sunday Taylor said...

Amelia, this story about your adventures in Maryland is very funny. My favorite parts are the Manhattan boys, the Ina-esqe kitchen, and your moral dilemma over killing the crabs. The food looks delicious and I am so glad you gave us the recipe for the corn. And yes, that scene of the house on the water is pretty! You made me laugh. As always I love your writing.

Aaron S. said...

Looks like a lot of fun.

I recently made that corn recipe for a group of not hugely adventurous eaters and it was a massive hit. I thought it was fantastic too.

jeana sohn said...

the toe point made me laugh loud. hahaha!
everything looks delicious!


Jessi @ Life: The Epic Journey said...

Beautiful! Sounds like so much fun. ;)

The corn looks amazing, I'm going to try that recipe immediately!

Andrea said...

Oh, I love that toe point (and the boy whose toe is pointing!). It was a great vacation, and I love your recap. When do you think Shortsonice's recap will be up???

A Manhattan Boy said...

The Manhattan Boys are very handsome.

Megan Taylor said...

I mean, "pretty" is kind of an exaggeration. JAY KAY!

Amelia, I had SO much fun in that short time I saw you yesterday. You're SUCH a spinning inspiration.

Maybe after you make a Vacation commercial (cue the soft morning mist), you should do one for Man in the Mirror (cue the reflection of a guy wearing one glove), no?


K said...

I'm reading this right before dinner, on an empty stomach (torture), but with my glass of wine not far off. I just found your blog via my sister in law Marjory who I know has emailed you before. I love reading your posts! I attempted your/Mario Batali's orecchiette with sausage and chard, with great success. Looking forward to reading more!

amelia said...

@K Yes! I remember Marjory's email! Thanks so much for stopping by & the kind words. So glad you had success w/ the orecchiette, it is such a great dish!

Jorge Pagliarini said...

..Yes.!. Corn very well done..GOOD.!.

Carmen said...

this is a great blog

Neil Butterfield said...

Man I so badly want barbecued corn on the cob drenched in butter and salt.

Heather Taylor said...

You are a dollface. When are we doing lobsters? wait, i just had a crazy idea. emailing you now.

Kimberley said...

You're so good at being funny and smart AND thoughtful all at once. I've been thinking about this same thing a lot (the animals that I eat), but my thoughts on it are so darn earnest. Anyway, three cheers to the fortifying qualities of vacation!

Barefoot Pregnant and In The Kitchen said...

Seriously can that corn look any yummier! I grill our corn most of the time... I will be using this recipe next time!

amelia said...

thanks, people!

@kimberley -- thank you! you're too kind. and as for earnestness, it's one of my favorite qualities. keep it coming! :)

Philloz said...

That looks like an amazing time mate, makes me jealous haha

Paola said...

It all looks soooo yummy! I think I'm going to have a Manhattan now!

Rachel said...

MMM, love it! St. Michael's is pretty nice - that place looks like the house from Wedding Crashers...
hoping for a part II tie in to the civil war history in the area. too much?

gynecologist chandler said...

It's so wonderful! Well done!