We are into the stone crab season. One of man’s finest foods. I have many times said that if I were to be executed, my last meal would be stone crabs.
I met Howard Livingston about 15 years ago. A different man at the time. Though possessed of the same basic charm as today. Howard was a Chicago executive. Wore three piece suits. Short cropped hair.
Howard had built a new home on the water on Summerland Key. We used to go out together frequently, visit each other’s homes. Howard gave a call one morning and said to come up. We were going out on his boat.
We enjoyed a delightful day on the water. If my memory proves correct, we went out to Marvin Key. We returned late afternoon. While the ladies were preparing dinner, Howard told me to join him.
We went out in a small flat boat. At a particular point, Howard stopped and threw the anchor in. Then he directed me to the front of the boat where he was standing. Howard had some stone crab traps sitting down under the water. Each had an attached buoy floating on top.
We were going to collect some stone crabs! A first time for me. Lest anyone think we were poaching, these were Howard’s traps.
We developed a system. I would lift the trap out of the water. The traps were wood strips attached in box form. Spaces in between the strips. Howard would take the stone crabs out. One at a time. Size was important. If too small, the stone crab was returned to the water.
I learned a lot that day. Only one claw can be removed. Then the crab is thrown back in the water. The claw regenerates. Amazing!
Howard did the claw removal. Ever so carefully. He held the stone crab in one hand and carefully snipped away where the claw attached to the body. He admonished me to be careful if I ever graduated to removing the claw. The claw where attached is close to the crab’s lungs. A miss cut and the crab would die.
The crab was returned to the ocean. The trap followed. However, Howard first put something in the trap. A large frozen pig’s foot. Apparently pigs feet are gourmet dining to stone crabs. The pig’s feet would attract the stone crabs and induce them to enter the trap from which there was no escape.
The day was not yet finished. We returned and had a healthy dinner. Stone crabs not included. They had to be boiled and then cooled. To be eaten another time.
It was midnight and I was still there. For what turned out to be the best part of the evening. Howard and I were seated out on the dock. My feet in the water. Howard sitting with his back to a post. Howard was playing his guitar and singing. Jimmy Buffett songs and songs he himself had written.
We were both smoking cigars. Howard had brought a bottle of Gran Marnier out on the dock. We each dipped our cigar in the Gran Marnier before smoking. We followed it with each of us periodically taking a swig out of the bottle.
A day in Key West time as Howard would later set to music.
Enjoy your Sunday!