Maryland crabs at heart: A mother's response to a vicious allegation by the governor of Virginia

Dear kids,

As Chesapeake Bay blue crabs, I know all of you have developed a pretty hard shell over the months. It's the nature of who we are as Callinectes sapidus. But you may have heard something recently that you might find upsetting. That's why I'm taking pen in claw to write to you now, which, as you can guess, is not the easiest thing for a crab to do.


Earlier this month, a human being named Terry McAuliffe went on a radio show and suggested that there's no such thing as a "Maryland crab" since all Chesapeake Bay crabs are born in Virginia waters. Personally, I find this offensive, as I'm sure you do, too. We've always identified ourselves as denizens of Maryland. It's where your father and I met and had a wonderful rapturous experience in the marsh grass in the Miles River near St. Michaels on a glorious day last summer. (Where he is now I couldn't say, but I understand he's regarded as a Number 1 — as he still is in my book).

It would be tempting to ignore the ramblings of this McAuliffe fellow, but it turns out he was elected governor of Virginia even though he was born in Syracuse, N.Y. Why this doesn't make him a "New York governor" is a mystery that only a flabby, shell-less organism can explain. I strongly suspect that this 58-year-old politician wouldn't understand the life cycle of our species if we pinched him in the butt, which I'm sorely tempted to try.

But here's what really steams me — purely in the metaphorical sense I can assure you — there's some truth to what he's said. Crabs like ourselves mate all across the Chesapeake Bay, but when it's time to actually hatch the fertilized eggs? I must confess that I, like my sisters, swam South to saltier locations in the lower Chesapeake Bay.

That's right. Technically, all 2 million or more of you were hatched in Virginia. There, I've said it, and I'm only slightly ashamed. As larvae, you swam in waters belonging to a state with the motto, "Sic semper tyrannis," which translates roughly to "thus always to watermen and their stinking trot lines, crab pots and dredges" or something like that. You were subsequently swept out to the Atlantic Ocean for a few weeks before prevailing currents returned you to the Chesapeake with many of you living even now in the good old state of Maryland.

This might be news to you. I know we didn't share a lot of mother-daughter-son-daughter-son-daughter-etc.-etc. time together. I wasn't there the first time you shed. I wasn't there when you had questions about the width of your apron or why some of you have red-tipped claws and some don't. I wasn't there to explain why you never, ever reach for that taste of raw chicken neck no matter how delicious it may look. For that, I apologize, but it's kind of how our species works.

What I can't forgive is how Governor McAuliffe would so thoughtlessly try to ruin the dreams of millions of blue crabs who aspire to be Maryland blue crabs because they are, let's face it, the tastiest crabs on the face of the earth. Who invented Old Bay Seasoning? Baltimorean Gustav Brunn. Who invented the crab cake? Well, the history is a little vague but most believe it was popularized in Maryland. Who figured out that a crab should be steamed, not boiled? That's right, the people living in the state with the motto, "Fatti maschil, Parole femine," which translates roughly to "Jimmy deeds, sook-ly words" which may be sexist but at least it's a lot less hostile.

Let me close this with two thoughts. First, why don't any of you ever visit? You have three pairs of walking legs for Chessie's sake, you can't put your benthos dinner down and scuttle this way once in a while? But secondly, please don't fret about being born in Virginia. It happens and it need not define the 12-18 months you have to live. You can aspire to be the best Chesapeake Bay blue crab that you can be, which, as everyone knows, is a Maryland crab.

Best wishes,