Steamed Crabs and a Beginner’s Mind

“You are doing it wrong. Let me show you how to do it the right way.”

One of the summer rituals in Maryland is eating steamed crabs. This is especially true where I live, near the Chesapeake Bay. I have been eating steamed blue crabs with Old Bay seasoning (a spice blend native to this area) nearly every summer since I was first introduced to them by one of my best friends in middle school whose father would buy a bushel of them once or twice a season to eat in their backyard. That is to say, I have eaten a lot of steamed crabs over the past twenty-five or more years.

My wife and her family also love seafood, especially crabs, so we have continued the summer crab-eating tradition in our home. Being from Cambodia, they did not grow up eating steamed crabs with Old Bay, however. Instead, they cut up the crabs and stir-fry them with various seasonings and spices, such as ginger and green onion or black pepper and coconut milk. If they do steam crabs, they dip the unseasoned, cooked meat in a tangy, spicy sauce made with fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, and chilis. All of these preparations are delicious and I do not discriminate when someone else is doing the cooking.

One day, we were eating crabs and my wife saw me struggling to pick little pieces of the delicate ‘lump’ crabmeat out of the body of the crab. “You are doing it wrong,” she said, “Let me show you the right way to do it.” She picked up a crab, pulled off the back shell, cleaned off the body, broke it in half, and peeled away the remaining shell so that what was left was a perfect little ‘lollipop’ of lump crabmeat. In spite of many years of doing things one way, a way that seemed to work, I learned a new, better way, better in that it was more efficient, producing greater results with less effort. All I needed was a beginner’s mind.

– Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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