ChefDad at the Bat

It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood two to four , with but one inning left to play.
So when Cooney died at second, and Burroughs did the same,
A pallor wreathed the features of the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go, leaving there the rest,
With that hope that springs eternal within the human breast.
They thought, if only Casey could get a whack at that,
They’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.

–Ernest Lawrence Thayer, Casey at the Bat

When I was ten years old, my dad made me a deal that if I went a whole season in little league without striking out, he’d take me anywhere in the world I wanted to go for dinner. Now, at age 10 I didn’t know as much about cooking around the world as Mr. N and Miss A, and I think he figured I’d pick something familiar and local. I was, however, an adventurous eater and by about the third or fourth game of the season, I’d settled on Joe’s Stone Crabs in Miami. I’d never been there, but my dad would have occasion to travel there back then, and he always raved about it. In retrospect, he probably did some nudging to ensure that if I picked a place that would wind up costing him two plane tickets, he at least wanted stone crabs out of the deal. I also think he didn’t expect to have to pay up.

IMG_5830

With about four games left in the season, though, I still hadn’t struck out, and things were getting serious. I have a very good memory of many things from little league, but much of the detail from this particular day is lost. I don’t remember the count, the pitcher, the opponent, the baserunners, or the score. I do remember the pitch. I can still see the laces spinning in slow motion toward my eyes, as big as a beach ball. I remember swinging, hard, as it sailed by, a foot above my head, then over the catcher’s and then over the umpire’s.  I missed it by a foot. In baseball parlance, I’d have needed a ladder to hit that one. Strike three.

I also remember what happened next. My dad, all 6’3″, 225 pounds of him, came charging out of the bleachers, screaming, “Foul Tip! Foul Tip! He tipped it! Get back up there, Mike!” At the time, the umpires were 15-year-old kids, and the ump for this game wasn’t about to argue with my dad any more than I was. I think I grounded the next pitch into a 6-4 fielder’s choice, but I’m not sure. I just remember knowing how much Dad was cheering for me, and that was pretty cool. Or he just wanted stone crabs.

Alas, I struck out in the next game or the one after that, and I’ve still never been to Joe’s Stone Crabs. Whenever we make it down to Florida and they’re in season (October 15-May 15), I do like to eat ‘em though. Kristy was happy to indulge me on my birthday this year.

IMG_5825

Cracking stone crabs is hard, and better done with a hammer than cracker, but crackers were easier to come by on our vacation, so we made do. Having them cracked isn’t a bad idea either, as it takes some practice to avoid mangling them, and we don’t have them often enough to practice.

IMG_5833

There’s no recipe here, just serve them with your favorite sauce. Joe’s suggests mayonnaise, I like creamy horseradish sauce. So in absence of a recipe, we’ve got vacation pictures.

View from our balcony

Harry Potter at Universal was Mr. N.’s favorite part of the trip, I think. He went on the HP ride once with Kristy and once with me, and all agreed it was worth the 90-minute wait. Miss A is still a little small for the big rides, but she enjoyed the village and we got to play in Dr. Seussville while Mr. N. was in line.
IMG_1869

We also really enjoyed our visit to St. Augustine, which is the oldest settlement in the U.S. I highly recommend it, but you should plan more carefully than we did, as it’s hard to park and not really intuitive to get around.
IMG_5681
It’s visually kind of like New Orleans with its alleyways and balconies, but without the smell and the seediness, or the revelry; though Miss A and I danced to some Lynyrd Skynrd cover band with much energy and somewhat less skill.
IMG_5676
Sadly we got there just too late to be able to tour the inside of Castillo de San Marcos the Spanish fort that used to guard the city. The outside was very cool, though, and Mr. N. really liked it.
IMG_5662

Mr. N and Miss A didn’t care for stone crabs as much as I, but between Disney, Universal, St. Augustine’s and the beach, there certainly was plenty of joy in Mudville to go around.
IMG_5636

51 comments on “ChefDad at the Bat

  1. Amy Tong says:

    I love the history behind these stone crab. :) What a supportive Daddy you have. You must be a foodie since you were young. Great pictures from your vacation. You guys must had a wonderful time.

  2. Oh but you look like such a vibrant, and outgoing young mum there :D

  3. Karen says:

    Loved the story! Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. Joe’s is a great restaurant to experience…we enjoyed lunch there last year. Their sauce is a mayo based sauce with powdered mustard added to it. Definitely get cracked stone crabs if you have the option.

  4. I think that my husband and I would enjoy the stone crabs more than our girls too! I’d say that 2012 was a great travel year for your guys…even if the mango did snore at times. What special memories for you all! (Our kids are the same as yours–they have a much broader view of the world than we did at the same age…)

  5. Now you’ve given me one more destination for my bucket list.. and I’m putting stone crabs at the top! What great memories you have, it’s so wonderful to be able to share these experiences with our children too.. I’m sure they ask you to tell that story over and over!

  6. I love that story!! I might use your dad’s trick soon! I’m just afraid that her favorite food stop might involve golden arches :/

  7. Oh yeah, sounds like the kids had blast!!! My kids love hotel staying and going out everyday during the trip. I’ve never tried Stone Crabs before. Hope to try and taste it one day!

  8. I loved the image of your dad coming to your defense! And the vacation photos are just great, but I particularly love looking at the smiling family photos. THe children, in particular, are just so delightful. I don’t think I’ve ever had stone crab. I just must at some point. I am sure it’s wonderful! I think the idea of using a hammer and getting to that meat has always intimidated me! :-)

  9. ChgoJohn says:

    What a great memory and you recounted it perfectly for us, Mike. You must have felt great having ChefGranddad spring into action on your behalf. Good for him!
    Stone crabs are such a treat and perfect for a birthday meal. Glad to see you all had such a good time on your vacation. That final photo of the SousChefs says it all. :)

  10. Courtney says:

    Awww, sounds like my baseball experiences… Love the pics of the kids. SO long since I’ve seen them, they’ve grown a ton. :)

  11. first of all Kristy! I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your sweet and uplifting and heartfelt comment you left on my site the other day! It meant the world to me and I will respond just haven’t had a chance yet to sit down in front of the computer until just now! Secondly, the trip sounds and looks amazing and i love the plate of crabs. It makes my mouth water

  12. Eva Taylor says:

    Great story Mike, my folks were huge cheerleaders for my brother and I too and what an amazing feeling that is. Glad you were able to enjoy the crabs this time too. I really liked St. Augustine too, we were there about 20 years ago! Did you dip into the fountain of youth?

  13. spicegirlfla says:

    In all the years I lived in S florida, I have not been to Joe’s either!! Maybe I need to return and make a visit! But I did get stone crab often; if you are eating them within a few hrs, I’d have them pre-cracked, tho still can be a struggle I but sooo worth it! That was some amazing career in baseball ;) !! I wonder, like father, like son, if life will repeat itself thru you the father now and Mr N??!!

  14. cecilia says:

    Hi Mike, wow you guys have the best holidays, I hope you got to enjoy those crabs with your dad at some time .. I love parents who go to kids games, was it actually a foul? amazing photos.. love to all.. c

  15. What a lovely story from your childhood Mike – what a great way for your dad to motivate you.
    I LOVE crab and would gladly help you finish off what Mr N and Miss A didn’t want to eat. :-) Mandy

  16. rsmacaalay says:

    Ohh my you had me with those crabs, I can eat a ton of them. Love them!

  17. You have the coolest dad ever. I love your stories and the family looks like they had a fabulous time on holiday. Take care, Bam

  18. Dawn says:

    I loved your story!! Even though I can’t eat crab, it does look like a ton of fun!

  19. Sounds like a wonderful visit – and those crabs… look so delectable. Happy Belated New Year K!

  20. We haven’t had this type of crab, but part of the beauty of eating any crab is the work involved! Great post.

    • ChefDad says:

      I agree, I like the work part, but Kristy not so much. She’ll do a lot of work to make dinner, but she’s very much of the opinion that the work part should be over when you sit down to eat.

  21. A_Boleyn says:

    I’m not much of a baseball fan but I DO love crab. I’ve never tasted stone crab but I would like to … very much. :)

  22. Haha, I think I’ve seen those parental intimidation tactics on the soccer field too – I wouldn’t mess either if I were the ump/ref (and most of them are still 15! at least over here). Love that your Dad jumped right in and tried to keep it going for you and sad that you struck out (though I guess it was inevitable) just wished you could have made it to Joe’s with your Dad. Loved reading this story.

    • ChefDad says:

      Somewhere along the line, some parents somewhere got out of hand and they replaced the kids with adults as umpires. One more reason to move to Canada.

  23. hotlyspiced says:

    Well, your father certainly tried hard to motivate you. Your holiday sounds like such a successful family trip – the kids must have really loved it xx

  24. Norma Chang says:

    Great post and photos Chef Dad. Glad you finally got to enjoy Joe’s Stone Crab.
    Ate at Joe’s Stone Crab many years ago and really enjoyed the stone crabs. We had them cracked for us.

  25. Your visit sounds like a brilliant time, it is so visually beautiful and mysterious almost :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

Thank you for commenting!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s