Costly crabs make a meal perfect for summertime


July 15, 1998|By DAN RODRICKS

Because it's mid-July and because this is Baltimore - and because I had a couple of incredibly good steamed crabs the other night and immediately craved more - I called around for prices yesterday. (Stand by for a public service announcement from This Just In.) The big boys, the jumbo jimmies, ranged from $90 to $145 a bushel, steamed. Smaller males, mediums, ranged from $65 to $95 a bushel. Such is the price of this magnificent madness.

The mild winter got the crab season off to a quick start; the April and May harvests were up significantly, according to the Department of Natural Resources. The local supply seems to be holding for the summer, though reports in June and July are mixed around the bay, according to the DNR.

The crabs to which we were treated Monday evening were heavy males. We had them with cold, fresh tomatoes from the Eastern Shore - sliced, salted and flecked with oregano - and corn on the cob. The beverage was a frosty local brew - Clipper City's Chesapeake Gold. If the beer didn't cool the tongue, the tomatoes did. A dessert of cantaloupe helped, too.

The meal took place on a kitchen table carried outdoors, placed under a shade tree and covered with the part of The Sunday Sun that comes to our house on Saturday. We ate in our T-shirts. We licked our fingers. We listened to the Orioles on the radio. The Orioles won. It was a perfect summer meal, a Baltimore classic. I think I'll refinance the house and buy a bushel.

McLean-Murphy nuptials

Jackie McLean, the former city comptroller, and Arthur Murphy, Billy's brother and a longtime political activist in Baltimore, will fly to Jamaica for November nuptials. So far, about 125 relatives and friends have said they'll be making the trip and attending the wedding.

Murphy, younger brother of the well-known attorney and son of a retired judge, says his relationship with McLean blossomed into romance during the former city official's heavily reported legal and mental health problems in 1994. McLean, accused of scheming to steal more than $25,000 in taxpayer funds, was represented by Cristina Gutierrez, then of Billy Murphy's law firm. Arthur Murphy served as McLean's protector, fending off the press during a time when she faced criminal charges, required psychiatric treatment at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital and went through a divorce.

Somewhere along the way, they fell in love.

Arthur Murphy had known McLean for 20 years, and he had worked in some of her campaigns for City Council and comptroller. "She always came at me, though," Murphy laughed over breakfast at the Hollywood Diner. "She'd come at me because of the Afro-American [newspaper, owned by the Murphy family]. If there was something in the Afro she didn't like, she fought with me about it. I worked in her campaigns on condition that I had no contact with her."

How things change with time.

Not only does Murphy have wedding plans but, this year, for the first time since 1971, when he was 21 and a Cherry Hill candidate for Baltimore City Council, he's running for public office. He's one of eight candidates for clerk of the Baltimore Circuit Court, a position that has been vacant since the death last August of Saundra E. Banks. Until he announced his candidacy, Murphy had served as political consultant to the nine sitting circuit judges facing election.

Other candidates for clerk: William Allen, William Burgee, Frank Conaway, Pamela Carter-Goodwin, Deborah England, Gwendolyn Jones, Charles Mackey, Pinkney McCready.

Report from Bush Hog

Bush Hog James and a Reisterstown buddy named Bobby went bassin' at the confluence of the Potomac River and Mattawoman Creek, right near Chapman's Landing, down in Charles County. Chapman's is that big, beautiful chunk of forested land Eddie Podboy, a millionaire from the other side of the continent, wants to turn into a mega-development of 4,600 homes, 2.5 million square feet of commercial space and a 200-acre golf course.

Fortunately, in April, the governor of Maryland, prodded by environmentalists, offered $25 million to buy and preserve the bulk of the land, threatening condemnation if the developers don't negotiate in good faith.

Ol' Bush Hog got a good look at what's at stake down there.

"Saw three eagles," he reports. "There was a pair on a little island, and the male actually fished with us a while. (He did better than we did.) We saw an otter, a beaver, half a dozen water snakes, a couple of dozen osprey and too many blue herons to count - between 50 and 100. Then we went into the upper reaches of Mattawoman Creek, which really are prehistoric. Not much in the way of bass, but the rest of nature is jumpin' down there."

From Joey, on Ladew

And then there's our cultural correspondent and man-about-Baltimore, Joey Amalfitano: "Even though the security people at the gate found my bottle of Colt 45, I had a nice time with Maxine and some friends at the Ladew Topiary Gardens' outdoor concert Sunday night. Maryland Pacesetters Steel Orchestra performed. Very nice. The crowd was good-sized, I would say. I had a delicious turkey sandwich that begged for the proper beverage, though. That's the only thing that bummed me out - you can't bring beer in, you have to buy it inside the gardens. I really resent that. I refused to buy one. Still, we had a good time. In two weeks, Ladew has a jazz band, and I'm there. But those security people better be on their toes. Jazz and Colt 45 do it for me, baby."

Just make sure Maxine drives the Monte Carlo home, Joe.

Pub Date: 7/15/98

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