Why is There a Crab in My Clam

How cocktail crabs find a home in class.

Cocktail Crabs are a tiny edible treat which live inside the mussel using the shell as protection. Over thousands of years there have evolved a unique relationship between mussels and these crabs. The relationship is mutually beneficial in that the crab feeds on any grit present, thus keeping the mussel perfectly clean and healthy. Should you discover this rare and delicious combination in your mussel shell, it is perfectly acceptable to eat crab and mussel together in one bite. But real gourmets look inside the mussel, pick out the crab and enjoy it with cocktail sauce. These delicate crabs also live in oysters from the Chesapeake Bay region where they are referred to as Washington Crabs because George Washington favored them for use in his chowder.

Did you find a crab in your mussel? Did you freak out, call the waiter over and complain? Did the waiter tell you that the chef said that it wasn't a problem, and just offer to take them out? "What do you mean 'just take them out?" you ask, reminding them that this was a thirty dollar entree! Maybe you got a whole new entree on the house. Either way when you got home you immediately Googled "crab in my clam" and found out that you are not the only person on the planet who this has happened to. You will also find out that the people, who have had this same experience, finding a crab in the mussel or oyster they were served, deal with it three different ways:

The first group of people finds it grotesque and unacceptable. They look at that crab like it's one of those shiny green flies. It spoils their meal and maybe even their night. They demand that the plate be taken off the bill. They blame the restaurant for an "act of God" as insurance companies like to call it. They don't realize that this is like asking the restaurant to comp your meal because it rained on your car while it was in the restaurant's parking lot.

The second group of people are also very surprised to see this cute little almost translucent crab in their clam. It isn't a common occurrence, so someone who doesn't eat mussels and oysters that often may only get to experience this once or twice in a lifetime. When they ask, they are told it's normal - pick it out or eat it. Being adventurous, they try one with the mussel. They find the bite a little gritty, but otherwise it's tasty - and interesting. Wow, a delicious seafood meal, a new experience and a story to tell. They figure it to be a good night.

The last group, are the old pros. They like shellfish. They know shellfish. They are the people at the table that will stop the others that they may be dining with from going into a panic over the unexpected appearance of a crab inside shellfish. Calmly reassuring their dinner party that this is nothing more than a special treat -like finding an onion ring in your French fries, the phantom problem never reaches the chef's ears. The little crabs are eaten with gusto. The miniature crustacean is sweet and adds a delectable nuance of texture and flavor to an already off-the-beaten-path specialty food. And this makes the people of this group, true shellfish connoisseurs, who enjoy all that the bounty of the sea has to offer...Especially its little surprises!

What group will you find yourself in? Tell us a little about your experience.

To order mussels, oysters, steamers, quahogs... for your restaurant or dinner table, check out our site: American Mussel Harvesters


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Lorilynn Mullett
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Ngozi Nwabineli
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American Mussel
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