by David Cecelski
Oh, the Lord blessed me this day. I had missed lunch and I was running late and I was driving on a rural road where I didn’t think that I had any chance of finding a bite to eat when I saw the hand-scrawled sign: “Fried Fish and Crab Plates, $6.50.”
I was in the little coastal community of North River, an old African-American settlement fringed by salt marsh and a broad estuary. I hit my brakes and came to a hard stop, backed up and pulled into a dirt drive.
Turned out that a local family had caught a surplus of spots and hard crabs, so they had thrown together a fish and crab fry. When I got there, the momma had just brought out a fresh tray of fried spots, a small, delectably sweet fish that’s very popular in those parts. A tray of fried hard crabs was also near at hand. She had just cleaned them, dusted them with flour, salt and pepper, and fried them in oil until golden brown. It’s a very simple, old-fashioned way of preparing hard crabs, one rarely seen in a restaurant, and it set my mouth to watering.
She laid out the trays of fish and crab on a table set up next to the driveway. Her neighbors were standing around talking and eating, while a crowd of very friendly young’uns was making plates and handling the cash box. The children sold me a plate of fish and crab with a slice of white bread and sides of baked beans and Cole slaw. I thought that I was in heaven.