Summer Soup

When you say "summer soup" to a Marylander like myself, gazpacho doesn't come to mind. Vichyssoise never even enters the picture. There are no cool melon soups or sour cherry this-n-thats in this noggin. No, when you say "summer soup" to me, the old memory banks sputter and crackle for a few nervous seconds, then crank up a vivid memory of folding tables and chairs in well-trod soft grass, newspaper and wooden mallets, spice-stained fingers and burning lips... all the trappings of a Maryland crab feast. And then there's the soup, most often made with the leftover crabs but sometimes served right with the feast itself. Fiery with Old Bay, sweet with fresh summer corn (the corn milk from the cutting board scraped into the pot along with stray strands of silk), cooked to death so the potatoes and green beans are ready to fall apart. And the most distinguishing feature... the demonic little orange claws emerging from the murky depths, a still life of an ingredient futilely trying to escape its fate. A slurping, dripping affair, it is. Not only is it a summer soup, it is an outdoor soup. Just as an overripe peach is an outdoor fruit. First for pragmatism, then ultimately for tradition and just plain rightness. We can't quite conjure that full experience, but we do put our hearts into our version of the crab soup... here is a photo of the first time I cooked crab soup at the Mary St. kitchen. We have since discovered some labor-saving processes, so the task isn't quite as murderous as it once was. Yet the result is quite faithful.