Author Archives: crbrowne

Steamed Crabs

“So again it is another food with ties to the Chesapeake Bay. It is called the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab. And growing up, we would either go sometimes, if we would do a weekend on the boat, we would have picnic tables in the carport of my dads house, and instead of a table cloth, we would put down newspaper, because when you open the crabs up, you would just put the piles of shells in the middle, and clean up would be easy. We would just roll up the newspaper and throw it out. That is like a Maryland tradition.”


How you would get the crabs?

“There were two ways. We would either go if there were a lot of people, we would buy them pre-steamed at the seafood place buy a bustle. It was in downtown Annapolis. Steamed crabs have old bay seasoning which makes them red and really spicy. It’s really popular. Or we would catch them ourselves. So this is what I remember, I would go down to the pier and I would have my crab net, I would have my bucket, and I would have my chicken necks, raw chicken necks, and my string. You’re going to be really grossed out when you hear this hahaha. So then you take the chick neck or the chick wing, and you would tie it up with the string and you would have to be pretty long, I don’t know seven or eight feet long, you would want it to touch the bottom of the river. Because the crabs are crawling across. So then you throw it in the water, and you tie the other end on the pier. Ok and you sit and you wait. And when you see the line being pulled out, you know the crab is on it and eating it. And you would be really careful, and you pull it in really slowly, and you pull it so that the crab is lust a foot under the surface so you can see the crab eating. And you hold the string in one hand and you hold the net with the right hand, and you have to be really careful or the crab will swim away. And then you have it in the water and you scoop up the crab. And then you put the crab in the bucket. And you put like a couple of inches of water in the bucket so the crab won’t die.

“So then if you’re lucky you have a good day and you catch a lot of crabs. Then you bring them home ad you steam them in the kitchen. So we had a special pot, you put water in the bottom and have it boiling. And you put the life crabs in and sometimes oh my god my poor mother was terrified, when you put them in and they’re dying they try to get out of the pot. And sometimes one would get out and it would crawl around the kitchen and my mother would freak out. The crabs crawl sideways and they try to pinch you. And my dad would catch them. You would put a wooden spoon in their pinchers to throw them back it. You steam them until you don’t hear any more noise. You just put a lot of seasoning or a bit of vinegar in the bottom of the pan. Old bay seasoning.


When usually do you usually have the steamed crabs?

“Only in the summer. You had to wait until the water was warm enough so that the crabs would be out there. You wanted the crabs to be five inches; those were the keepers. The little ones didn’t have a lot of meat in them.”


When did you first hear of this tradition?

When I was growing up in Annapolis. I was probably five or six. People would crab on the docks.


Which docks do you mean?

We lived on a creek called Spa Creek, and we crabbed a little there, but it was more where we moved to the neighborhood with the house, the neighborhood pier.


Who joined in this tradition?

Sometimes my friends, neighborhood kids. Eat them with the family, sometimes the neighborhood kids.


What is the significance of this tradition to you?

It was just a pastime, a recreational past time, something to do. Some people go fishing, people who live on the bay or the tributaries go crabbing.

This tradition speaks more closely to the informant’s immediate family. It represents her connection, and her parent’s connection to their local environment, and the importance of using the area for food. The steamed crabs also show the ways in which the informant and her community would be brought together during the summer crabbing season over this traditional dish. This meal really shows the ways in which the local environment is celebrated throughout the United States and how it can unite a community.


For more information and traditions on steamed crabs in Annapolis, MD, visit: (also note the common use of newspapers!)

“Crab Season Is Just Around the Corner.” N.p., 13 Jan. 2011. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

Oyster Cassarole

“So the food I would like to talk about is a casserole that my grandmother used to make and she only made it on special occasions: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. And it was her domain, like no matter where we celebrated the holiday; she was the one who made this dish. And it was an oyster casserole. Don’t make that face it is really good. I can taste it now. It’s an oyster casserole. That reflects – I grew up in Maryland and so the Chesapeake Bay is the body of water where I grew up. And like the Chesapeake Bay is known for seafood. And oysters are one of the biggest crops of the Chesapeake Bay: oysters, blue crabs, and rockfish. Those are the three main like crops or whatever from the Chesapeake Bay. So like when I grew up, life revolved around the water. We always ate a lot of seafood. Seafood was like our way to be connected to our environment. And like you would eat oysters fried, raw, in casserole, baked, like they were really popular. So Grandma Boyd, I don’t know if she developed the recipe but it was like her secret recipe. Um so it was a secret recipe, it reflects our family’s heritage of the Chesapeake Bay.

“And actually, I remember when I was little, Pop Pop [Mona’s father] and I would go, my dad and I would go, to the seafood place and buy the raw oysters for the casserole. We would go buy and bring it home and she would make the casseroles. She would make two big ones, two big casseroles. And she would um bring them and bake them at the house wherever the dinner was. And then everyone would, it was very coveted, everyone would fight over the oysters. Everyone wanted more than one helping. There would be all this good food, but everyone wanted to hog the oysters. And basically, all they are is layers of pan with crushed up cracker crumbs, salt pepper, butter, and chunks of butter, and she would lay the oysters on it, and another layer of cracker crumbs and more layers of oysters and break crumbs. Oh my goodness it is so good you can’t even image. She knew would how to make them just right.


When did you first experience/hear about the tradition?

“Probably when like I want to say 1968 when I was eight years old. I remember they became more popular as the years went on. Like within the family. People just knew how good they were. Like you couldn’t have a holiday meal without the oysters. It wouldn’t have been a prober meal. Grandma’s oysters.”


What was your grandma’s name?

“Ella Louise Boyd – we called her Louise.”


Who typically took part in this tradition?

“Me, and mom and dad, Aunt Liz and Uncle Carl, Grandma Boyd, um and usually Uncle Mike and Aunt Pam, Brittney and Amy my cousins, and anybody’s family who was around. Sometimes Uncle Dan, sometimes Uncle Bob and his wife Francie. Sometimes cousin Trace, my cousin Donna and her husband Earl.”


What do you see as the significance or role of tradition in your family?

“Its like just a very, it’s a comfort food. Some families mashed potatoes or turkey is the comfort food, the oyster casserole was the comfort food.”


And when exactly would this tradition appear?

“Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. It wasn’t ever made any other time. We always used to eat steamed crabs. That’s a whole other business though.”


My Analysis:

This tradition represents more than just a comfort food for the informant’s family. The oyster casserole seems to unite her family during the holiday season, giving them a delicious meal to celebrate around. The informant is clearly very involved in this tradition because she has grown up taking part in it from a young age. The oyster casserole also enables the informant to really take part in her family’s culture because her and her father collect the oysters themselves. It is unique that this tradition also unites the family back to their environment. The oysters represent both her family’s unity but also the local traditions of the Chesapeake Bay.

Dia De Los Muertos

“Day of the Dead. It is just the celebration of the past ancestors. It’s celebrated before Halloween or on Halloween, I’m not sure. Wait – it’s November 1st. we usually celebrate it by going to the cemetery and having a picnic, setting up their favorite food and celebrating their memory. Who they are and who they are as a person.”


Do you have a favorite memory from this day?

“When we celebrated my grandfather. We celebrated his memory here in the States. We set up a little shrine for him and set out some of his favorite food: sweetbread and molé.”


When did you start celebrating this day?

“When my grandfather died so when I was like five.”


Who usually participates in this tradition?

“Usually the whole family. Usually go to the big family plot and visit all of the family members, the ones from recent memory.”


I think this celebration is very popular in one form or another for many cultures in order to celebrate the dead. I think it is unique that the informant and his family in their culture celebrate all of their dead on one day. They remember their recently deceased and memorialize them. This tradition enables the family to mourn and celebrate the passing of important people in their lives and bring them together as a whole.

Roscón de Reyes

“In English this means the Ring of Kings. And it is a celebration for … that is celebrated on the Day of Kings, which is usually January 6th and on this day, children receive presents not from Christ or Santa Claus, from the Kings – the three wise men from the story of Christ. And in this day a little figurine of baby Christ is put in a ring-shaped cake and whoever pulls it out is blest for the rest of the year by Christ himself. And in Mexican culture you also have to make dinner for the whole family. Whoever pulls out Christ has to make dinner to spread the blessings. Celebration of the three wise men.


“The cake starts getting cut on January 6th but it can spread out over the whole week. In Hispanic culture we celebrate Christ and the Kings over two or three weeks. Its like a two or week party. Christmas to January 12th.”


When did you start celebrating this tradition?

“I started first celebrating when I was around four. I remember this because my family would actively avoid trying to get Christ from the ring of kings and I saw my sister once get it and put it back because no one wants to make tallies.”


What does this story mean to you?

“To me, it is something my mom liked to do and brought my family together to the same table and see everyone together especially since everyone is so busy.”



It seems as though the celebration of Roscón de Reyes is primarily celebrated to bring everyone in the informant’s family together. I got the sense that no one in the family actually wanted to get the good luck charm because of the inconvenience of having to spread their luck by making a meal for everyone. I have heard of the Biblical Story of the Three Kings but never in a physical celebration. I think that the cake is another way to bring the family together.


For another version of what is celebrated for Roscón de Reyes, please visit:

Harris, Jenn. “Celebrate Three Kings Day with Rosca De Reyes.” L.A. Now. LA Times, 5 Jan. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.

The Chinese Lunar Calendar

“Ok so the jist of it is, the Lunar Calendar, the Chinese Lunar Calendar is dictated by the year of the animal. Every year it is a different animal. The year of the tiger, year of the dragon, year of the lamb. There are 12 animals that go on rotation. Every twelve years the same animal will come to be. So depending on what year you were born on, you would be born to the year of that certain animal. And the year of the animal changes every Chinese New Year. So there are twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac/lunar calendar and the legend is that the order that the order the animals came is through a race.

“So apparently, a race was called um and animals would have to race together and the first twelve that made it across the finish line would make it onto the calendar. And depending on the order those twelve came across the finish line, that would be the order one to twelve. So the main gist of the story is that the challenges that they would all have to race, they would have to jump a creek and race all of the way through and throughout the whole race, the ox was in the lead. Um during the race, the rat jumps on top of the ox and as the ox is running and right as it is by the finish line, with all of the other animal behind them, and they’re going, just as the ox is approaching the finish line the rat jumps off the ox’s head and steals first place. And so the ox becomes second. Tiger third and all of the other animals follow until twelve. That is the legend of how the lunar calendar came to be.


Who told you this story?

“My dad.”


And in what setting?

“My guess would be a discussion about Chinese New Year.”


Who usually talks about this story?

“People that are native from China or find that the story is interesting to pass along discuss it at Chinese New Year.”


What does this story mean to you?

“Um it doesn’t affect the way I live my life, a funny insight into how the Chinese culture characterizes what western culture tends to objectify. Even years form the Chinese people have a life incorporated into it. The fact that you apply living animals to every year. And there is a story to how they collaborated and how they approach one another and how that came to be.”



I think that this story is a very significant aspect of tradition Chinese culture. It is unique that animals play such a large role in the development of the calendar because I have heard that animals are good luck charms in Chinese tradition. While this story does help us understand the meaning of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, it is also a fun story to listen to and take part in the tradition.