Crab for Christmas

Well, yesterday I found something to miss about Northern California. Dungeness crab.

Our family tradition is to have fresh Dungeness crab on Christmas Eve. None of the markets around here were advertising it for sale. But when I checked I found out that an upscale market named Jensen’s would have it. The young man working in the seafood section assured me they get in fresh Dungeness crab every day, cooking it themselves at the store. I ordered three and didn’t even ask the price. I figured it didn’t matter since it would make mom happy, and since she has informed me that this is her last Christmas on earth. I was to pick the crab up at 10:00 on Christmas Eve morning and I arrived promptly. I was told the crab was “still in transit” but that was fine since I still had to buy our Christmas day dinner, which I intended to buy already prepared by Jensen’s.

Without paying attention to the cost, (because after all this is mom’s last Christmas and price is no object!), I put gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, pumpkin soup, yams, gravy, and a pecan pie in the grocery basket. I intended to buy a roasted turkey breast but they didn’t have any sitting out like they do at Ralph’s. When I inquired about a pre-roasted turkey breast, the deli-guy said they had them in back. I asked for a small one. When he came back with “the smallest” it was 7 pounds. I told him I only wanted the breast, to which he replied, “This is the breast.” I’m wondering how many hormones were injected into the bird to give it a 7 pound breast! But, not to be deterred, I graciously accepted the small suitcase-sized box it came in, put it in the cart with the other items, and then noticed the price was $53.17. Yikes! Well, after all, it is Mom’s last Christmas. When I made my way through the lengthy line my pre-prepared dinner for two rang up on the register at $221.37. Holy Schmoley! Well, it is mom’s last Christmas.

Recovering from my shock, I drove home, to get ready for church. I felt that Mom and I could use a little spiritual lift and had read in the paper that Southwest Community Church had a really great Christmas program. Since the crab wouldn’t arrive at Jensen’s until around 4 or 5, I decided to go to the 3:00 pm service. Ushering Mom out the door at 2:15 to make the 15 minute drive and then get a good seat, we arrived at the church at 2:30, only to discover the service didn’t begin until 3:30. Oh, well. At least we would be assured of a good seat. They served Christmas cookies, spiced cider, hot chocolate, and coffee so we snacked and waited. People started getting line about 2:45 so we got in line, to assure a good seat. Unfortunately, there were technical difficulties with the stage and curtain so we didn’t get in until 3:45. Oh, well. At least we got a good seat. Once the music started it was so loud it made Mom cringe, despite that fact that she has lost a bit of her hearing. The minister, dressed in a Christmas argyle sweater, gave a pretty good sermon. We decided to leave just as they began singing the last Christmas carol so we didn’t get caught in the snarl of traffic leaving the facility. Plus, I didn’t want to miss picking up the crab.

Getting in the car, I called Jensen’s but the crab was still “in transit.” I wondered where it had originated, though made the excuse that the weather was bad. We went home so mom could devil the eggs. Jensen’s finally called at 5:30 pm to say the crab had arrived, but they close at 7:00 pm so I needed to hurry. When I asked if they still had to cook it, because they told me they cook all the crab there on site themselves, the young man said that the company had cooked it for them already. Hmmmm?

Mom likes to clean and crack the crab herself. However, I realized all the nut crackers that we use to crack the crab are in storage in Benicia. Jumping in the car I placed an OnStar call to The Alley, a store that carries everything your heart could desire. Yes, they had nut crackers but they close at 6:00. Better head there first.

I finally picked up the crab at Jensen’s with plenty of time to spare. At the check-out counter I nearly froze. OMG! Three crab for the two of us (mom likes lots of crab) came to $83.94, a cost of $13.99 per pound. At home, we could get it anywhere for $3.99 to $5.99 per pound. If it cost more than $5.99 per pound we didn’t buy it. Oh, well, this is Mom’s last Christmas. I had no intention of telling Mom the price.

Arriving home I plopped the crab into the sink, tearing the price off the wrapping before Mom could see it. As Mom began to clean the crab I heard her say, “Yuck! Look at this.” The crab fat was an unappetizing shade of brown. I said, “Oh, they must be okay. They were just cooked today.” However, the inside meat was a doubtful shade of gray. Scooping it up and putting it into a plastic bag, I told her to start cleaning the second one. However, it was in the same shape, as was the third.

It was 6:30. I immediately called Jensen’s, told them their “fresh crab” was not, and what did they want me to do about it. They told me I could either bring it back and they would replace it, or I could just wait until Wednesday and just bring in my receipt. I sure as heck didn’t want any crab and told him so, to which he replied he would give me some beef or something else at no charge. I told him I just wanted my money back and would be there directly.

Throwing off my slippers and pulling on my boots, I jumped in the car, only to realize I was nearly on empty after all my running around that day. I said a little prayer for enough fumes to make it to Jensen’s and then the Mobil station next door. I arrived at Jensen’s with two minutes to spare. I handed Rick, the seafood guy, my bag of smelly crab. The store was in the process of being closed down so there was no delay in crediting my card for the $83.94.

I made it to the Mobil station just before they, too, closed. Then I wondered what to have for dinner that would go with the nice bottle of Prosecco I had chilling in the fridge. Carls’ Jr.? Burger King? Wendy’s? I figured they would be open. Ah, ha! Let’s see if Villaggio’s is open and we will have pizza. They were. In fact, they were hopping with business.

And so it was, on Christmas Eve, 2012, we changed traditions; we had pizza. The Meat Lover’s Supreme was excellent with Prosecco. But next year I think I will take Mom to Las Vegas. It will be cheaper. And I am confident she will still be here.