Where Do Maryland Crabs Come From? Virginia, Apparently - Gastro Obscura
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Where Do Maryland Crabs Come From? Virginia, Apparently

Virginia Beach tries to get in on the whole crab thing (Photo: m01229/Flickr)

Everything you thought you knew about East Coast summer seafood is a lie. What’s up is down, what’s down is up, and Maryland crabs, it turns out, are actually from Virginia.

Earlier this month, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe made a bold statement.

“You know, Maryland talks about its crabs,” he told a local radio host. “All the crabs are born here in Virginia and they end up, because of the current, being taken [to Maryland]. So really, they should be Virginia crabs.”

This assertion, as reported by Politifact, is somewhere between an attack on a neighboring state’s culinary pride and a declaration of media warfare. Maryland is rightly proud of its crabs. They are the state food, and they adorn all state drivers’ licenses.

About half of the U.S. haul of blue crabs comes from Maryland. If you’re on the Maryland shore during the summer, you must indulge in a feast of steamed crab meat, seasoned with Old Bay, ready to be pulled from the bright red shell.

Virginia-born, Maryland-eaten (Photo: Krista/Flickr)

According to the Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, the first printed instance of the phrase “crab cakes” was in “1930 in Crosby Gaige’s New York World’s Fair Cook Book, where they are called ‘Baltimore crab cakes.’”

According to Politifact, though, McAuliffe’s audacious claim is more or less true.

After talking to two biology professors, the political fact checking website concluded that, indeed, Chesapeake Bay crabs are conceived and born in the lower, Virginia section of the bay, where the water is saltier and conditions are right for crab baby-making. The crab larvae drift to the salty Atlantic Ocean for a bit and then waft back up the Bay towards Maryland.

It’s understandable that Virginia might want to get in on the crab action: its state foods are frankly kind of boring. Blueberry muffins serve as the state muffin, and ice cream is the state dessert. But until Alexandria starts producing more crab cakes than Baltimore, menu items by that name are going to be a hard sell.

Come on, people, no one calls them Virginia crab cakes.

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