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Steamed Crabs

Last year my friend Jamie taught Dan and I how to pick crabs the Maryland way. Jamie is a very particular person who feels as strongly as crabs as I do about barbeque. He believes passionately that there is a correct way to steam, pick, and eat fresh blue crabs. And because he’s the expert (and I came to the table with no opinions about crabs), we do as he says. Since he converted us to whole-crab lovers Dan and I have eaten them a few more times, but hadn’t made the jump to preparing them ourselves.

Thankfully Jamie, along with many of our friends and family, see Biscuits and Such as the perfect excuse to experiment in the kitchen, be adventurous, try new things. And while he had grown up watching his parents and grandparents steam crabs he hadn’t actually replicated the process by himself. He suggested it, Dan and I enthusiastically agreed, and this past labor day we tried our hand at steamed crabs.

The Keffer family method goes something like this- combine water, a few seconds’ pour of vinegar, and most of a can of Natty Boh in a large pot. In the steamer basket layer live crabs and a combination of spices. As you can see, this is often more difficult than it sounds.

Most people in the mid-Atlantic will agree that a steamed crab is not a steamed crab without a generous dose of Old Bay, the magical spice blend invented by Jewish immigrant Gustav Brunn (who will soon be immortalized in paper doll form by the ever-amazing Lisa Perrin & the JMM). Old Bay is a mixture of salt, pepper, red pepper, black pepper, and about a thousand other things making its recipe impossible to copy (the genius of Gustav Brunn). Jamie’s recipe combined a thick coating of Old Bay with mustard powder, mustard seed, salt, red pepper, and celery seed.

Once the water has been brought to a boil the crabs start the steaming process (lid on), and 15-20 minutes later, once the crabs are bright red, you’re ready to pick and enjoy!

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Sol Food

When I was in 8th grade we received a letter in the mail from the Durham Public School System saying I’d been granted admission into the district’s art magnet school, Durham School of the Arts. I was furious. I hadn’t applied, it was my mother’s idea, and the idea of losing my friends and all the work I’d put into socializing myself the past three horrible middle school years was devastating. I tore the acceptance letter up and fumed. I had struggled to make friends when we’d moved from southern Florida back to Durham, and I couldn’t imagine starting over at a new school. Fortunately for me, the decision wasn’t mine to make and in August of 2000 I started high school at DSA.

That same year my younger brother, Reid, started 6th grade at DSA. It was over the next 7 years that he (both of us, really), fell in love with DSA, the culture, the teachers, our fellow students, and the community. It was also over these years that he formed close friendships with Ellen Duda, Dylan Hammond, and Eliza Bordley. And it was with these friends, many moons ago, that a plan was hatched to take a country wide tour in an old school bus.

Just a few weeks ago, almost twelve years after they all began their DSA journey, they started that bus tour. Their nonprofit organization, Sol Food, set off on a 6 month tour of the continental U.S. that will cover much of the states and many, many miles. They’re stopping in communities big and small throughout the country, creating square space gardens, working on farms, giving workshops, and exploring.

Their third stop was Baltimore. They came at the end of June and stayed for a whole week. The Museum hosted a few events in their honor (including a community day) and then they launched into a week of different projects. They build raised beds and decorated at the Jonestown community garden, Exeter Garden. They spent a day at Kayam Farm helping and learning and teaching. They went to the Catonsville 4th of July parade. They visited the Baltimore Free Farm and helped celebrate my birthday.

It probably goes without saying how amazing I think Sol Food is and how proud I am of their choice to do this service project. I’ve known all of them for a long time (Reid, obviously for all of his 24 years) and it makes me so happy that they’ve found a way to follow their dream and create something valuable. They’ve overcome odds, found funders, organized a massive service project and trip, and are still smiling as they do it. I strongly encourage you to check out their website, solfoodmobilefarm.org to follow their progress and if they’re coming to a town near you, check them out. You won’t regret it.

from left: ellen, dylan, eliza, reid


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Meredith’s Strawberry Pie

This past weekend our niece, Meredith, came up to Baltimore and had a special aunt/uncle & niece visit. This trip was our Christmas present to M this year, we wanted to give her something special, something she’d remember, and thought a weekend alone where she got to pick the activities would be perfect. I’m so glad we did, I hope we can make this a tradition. We had such a good time with Meredith, and I hope these visits will be memories she cherishes.

We had a jam-packed weekend. She came up midday on Saturday and after a short reading break (on her request) we headed out. First we went to a park to do some swinging and climbing. Then we chucked the rules out the window and had gelato before dinner (M got strawberry/raspberry, Dan got pistacho/creme, and I got raspberry/mojito). After gelato we walked around Fells Point, listened to a street performer playing the bagpipe, and then headed to dinner. Our original plan was to go to one of our favorite restaurants, Ale Wife, because they have amazing burgers for Dan and I and incredible mac n’ cheese for Meredith. They were packed. So we redirected and went to Pratt Street Ale House. When we got the menu we saw that they didn’t have traditional mac n’ cheese, only mac n’ cheese bites. I was so worried M would be upset, we’d promised her AMAZING mac and who knew if we could deliver. But when it came she looked at me and said “This is great! It’s like macaroni AND chicken nuggets! It’s like NUGGET CHEESE.” I love that kid. She also said, at a different point that day “Mac and cheese is my favorite food! NO! CARROTS!”

On Sunday we didn’t waste much time hitting the town. M and I went to the Walter’s Art Museum to visit their Drop In Studio, where we made a necklace based on the jadeite necklaces in their collection. After a while playing with puppets and reading in their Family Activity Center we headed up the street to the Enoch Pratt Free Library, where they were hosting a Fairytale Festival. This was incredible. We made all sorts of art, pet therapy dogs, M got her face painted, and we spent very much time watching a magician who was the most impressive thing ever. I’m pretty sure M’s take away from the whole weekend might be MAGIC DID YOU SEE HIM MAKE THE COIN DISAPPEAR. We then moved on to the main attraction for the day, the Fluid Movement roller show. As an active member of FM’s summer water ballet, the roller show is so much fun to watch. This year’s show was a tribute to Baltimore’s West Side, which included Frank Sinatra doing a cartwheel (on rollerblades) AND the entire audience going outside to parade around the block. It was excellent. And the best part was that Meredith was able to get both the autograph of and a picture with one of the talented skaters, Jobi.

On Monday Dan went back to work and Meredith and I had the day to ourselves. First she came down to my museum to test out some elementary activity packs I’ve created (she was a wonderful test subject), and then we went home to make strawberry pie. Meredith is planning on competing in the B’Eat More Pie Fest this year (in the Cutie Pies category for bakers under 12), and wanted to test out a strawberry pie. While we both agreed that it was delicious, she’s now considering how a plum pie would work.

All in all, we feel super lucky to have this sweet girl as our niece. I should probably start planning next year’s visit to Bmore… I’ll have to find a way to beat the magician! See more pictures from our weekend here.

Meredith’s Strawberry Pie


2 1/2 cups flour

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 sticks butter

1/4 cup shortening

1/4-1/2 cup ice water

1 egg for brushing over


1 pint of strawberries

1/4 cup sugar (or less if the strawberries are very sweet)

1 tbsp corn starch

1 tsp vanilla extract

To make the crust, mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Work the shortening in with your hands. Cube the butter and work it in. Pour in vanilla. Add ice water, a little at a time, until the dough has formed into a ball Wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Clean and quarter the strawberries. Mix with remaining ingredients. Roll half the dough out and place in the bottom of the dish. Scoop in filling. Roll the remaining dough out and cut into strips. Layer the strips on top of the pie, weaving them together. Whisk egg and brush over exposed crust.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.


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