To Market to Market, to Buy a Fat Crab!

Our Saturday mornings, particularly in the late summer and fall, start with a trip to the Alemany Farmers Market.  Last Saturday the market had suddenly become rather sad –  the rich abundance of summer had all but vanished and the fruit and veggie selection had been reduced to, alas, fall produce.  We nonetheless managed to fill our baskets with organic beets, lacinato kale, swiss chard, turnips, leeks, squash, artichokes, and a few lingering summer tomatoes.

We like to shop at Alemany because it’s local to us, but also because its vendors and customers are really a reflection of the local population: Latino, East Asian, White, African American, and whoever-else (may I say the 99%). Not to mention that it’s far less costly (some might say less “elitist”) than the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market.

With a few “extras” in the form of artisan breads and tamales and chutneys in our basket, we move on to the Manila Oriental Market (MOM), excited at the prospect of the first crabs of the season.

The start of the crab season in San Francisco seems always the same: Delayed because of a dispute between the crabbers and the distributors about the price per pound. It is usually settled in a few days, but this year it went on past Thanksgiving, unforgivable in some circles.  Apparently the price to the crabbers has hardly gone up in 20 years. If this is the case, we’re with the crabbers.

Going to MOM is not like going to the Safeway. It is much more of a jostling, competitive crowd, but as our mission is to get the liveliest live crabs at the best price, we fit right in.  We leave with two 2+ pounders.

When we get home, our 9-year-old grandson is waiting, anxious to see if the crabs pass the liveliness test by pitting them against each other in the kitchen sink. They are then plunged into boiling water, and removed after 15 minutes. Once cooled, we crack them and remove their bounty.

Since he was four, Julian and Granddad have spent Saturday mornings during crab season buying, cooking and cracking crabs. But lately our grandson has shown less interest in the actual purchasing (he has other fish to fry) and really only plays a supervisory role, particularly in the preparation of the Louis sauce. I think this was the first thing he learned to make in the kitchen, and he took to it like a duck to water.  “Does this have too much lemon in it, Granny?  A bit more crème fraîche?” Inevitably, he always “tested” at least half of the sauce before it got to the table.

We serve the crab at room temperature, on a bed of lettuce, maybe tomatoes or cucumber or boiled eggs, and of course, the Louis Sauce.

Julian’s Louis Sauce 

 3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 teaspoon mustard

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup crème fraîche (optional)

Combine all ingredients by stirring well.


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