The first time I tasted crab, my skin responded in a way that perpetually scared me away from returning to it. I thought it wasn’t worth much because after all the allergy madness, I had forgotten how it tasted. I simply had no memory of the crab.
I have always enjoyed sea food though. It somehow tastes like home to me. Maybe that’s why I still can never tell the difference between prawn and crab. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I was gripped by this sudden mad urge to devour a whole crab, with masala and oil and everything. Part of this madness came from this strange desire to feel sea in my mouth. So I went to Mangalore Pearl, ordered rice and crab curry and waited. I was not particularly hungry that evening. I had only just belted a whole plate of Bombay toast and some chicken sandwiches. I’m saying this because I know I can’t really boast of having a kickass appetite but when I could smell the crab curry come to our table, my stomach did a somersault and I forgot all about my stupid appetite and reached out for my first piece of the evening.
When I started work on my first piece, words of wisdom spoken by somebody who wished well came to mind; that eating crab required skill and that I possessed no such skill. And this was because I use both of my hands, all my fingers and parts of my face to eat crab. I was slightly embarrassed to return to that adventure and needless to say, I did have to struggle a lot with undressing the crab but when I finally did put that first piece in my mouth, I said fuck you to talent and decided to make use of all body parts if I have to, to eat the damn crab. Because it simply tasted that good and my need to justify why I am doing something was overpowered by my new found respect for crab. It was only 45 minutes later when I finally emerged from my plate and looked up at laughing friends did I realise that my way was the best way.
There is that moment of struggle between wanting to release the spicy sweet meat from its stupid pincers to sucking really hard on the tip of the pincers to make sure you haven’t left out any meat. After I had attacked the pincers and sucked out all the meat, I turned to look at what is now my favourite part of the crab, its stomach. I feel rich when I see the crab’s stomach. I feel gracious when I comb its meat out and stuff all of it in my mouth. Reasonably this is my favourite part of the crab because I don’t have to wrestle much and it always promises meat bursting about in all directions.
I have never really been much of a spice or a masala person. But I didn’t quite mind it when they accompanied the crab. I think it’s because they didn’t interfere much with the flavour of the crab and flirted with it only a proper amount before dissolving into seafoodness.
It was only after I tasted my second crab in life that I realised that I am capable of enjoying good food and that the affair with taste and remembering taste is an interesting one. Sometimes I cannot believe that it took me a just one plate of crab yet so late in life to make sense of food and its capabilities to produce happy feelings. I have frequented the crab a little more after Mangalore Pearl. Not much has improved when it comes to the number of body parts that get involved in this task; it has gotten progressively worse in fact. But my curiosity to look for words to remember taste and to produce it in writing has increased.