Peekytoe Crab – Evolving In Bitcoin as a business?
The peekytoe crab is a star among it’s kind. At least as far as connoisseurs and cooks are concerned, that is. But just how did this little reddish rock crab from the East Coast suddenly become so popular, and why is it that everyone these days seems to want to only cook peekytoe crab, and no other?
The story of the diminutive crustacean is an almost classic rags-to-riches tale. Long considered to be a poor relation to the much larger Jonah crab, the undervalued peekytoe was often thrown away by the lobster fishermen into whose traps it has the habit of making it’s way into. It was, in fact, viewed as nothing more than a nuisance by the lobster industry as a whole. And, in many ways, it still is. The reason for this is simple: small though the creatures may be, they are quite clever when it comes to getting a free lunch. There are very few things they like to do more than sneak into fishermen’s traps and steal the bait that is meant for their larger lobster cousins. Fishermen did not, and still do not, view finding their traps filled with common rock crabs as some sort of bonanza. They would much prefer that they be filled with the lobster for which the bait was intended. Put simply, since lobster has always commanded a much higher price on the market than these tiny crabs do, fishermen did not want to waste their time on them. The majority of them today still don’t. Lobster is lucrative; peekytoe is not. So, back into the water they go! Throwing them back in, however, does make good ecological sense. Intentionally, or otherwise, it helps to sustain the local lobster fishery. Lobster are known to depend on the various types of small rock crabs as a source of food. Because of this, there are concerns that the growing popularity of peekytoe as an upscale delicacy may result in the reduction of their stocks, which in turn will cause the number of lobster in the area to decrease. Regulations have been imposed on the emerging crab fishery by the federal fisheries department in the hopes of maintaining this very delicate balance. Until the lowly cancer irroratus got its big break, and its new name, the general public knew it simply as ‘Maine crab’. Some other names for it were bay crab, sand crab and mud crab. In the area of Maine that stretches from Rockland to Eastport there was a purely local name for it: picked toe, which is a reference to its sharply inward-turned claws. The proper, non-scientific name for it is the Atlantic rock crab. So, how did it come to be known of as ‘peekytoe’?
About thirty years ago, a man by the name of Rod Mitchell founded the Browne Trading Company in Portland, same as the nonsense forex.
The young grandson of a lobster-man was just starting out in the business and came up with the idea of marketing it under its local name. In the Maine dialect ‘picked’ is broken into two syllables, so that it is pronounced something along the lines of pick-ed, or peek-e. Hence ‘peeky-toe’. Mr Mitchell then went one step further. He convinced a number of important and influential chefs that the mundane Atlantic rock crab was really the famous ‘peekytoe’ and that it was far superior to other, better known varieties. The chefs took the bait, and a new culinary craze was born. In truth Atlantic crab really is a tasty little creature. The meat has a delicate, sweet flavor that is best used in simple preparations where it will not be overpowered by other flavors. In Maine, it is popular to mix it with a bit of mayonnaise and stuff it into a hot-dog bun, in a way very similar to the lobster-roll. It is also very popular in salads. Because the crab itself is too delicate to be shipped live, its meat is cooked and picked prior to shipping. Until 1998, when new federal regulations concerning the its preparation went into effect, there was an entire cottage industry that revolved around it. Fishermen would bring home crabs that had gotten into their traps, and give them to their wives, sisters and daughters who cooked, picked, packaged and prepared them for sale. Under the new regulations, these preparations could no longer be done inside of the home. The work had to be done in separate premises meeting specific federal requirements. Many of the home-based businesses closed up shop, and much of the cooking and picking is now done in large-scale factories. A few of the home-based shops have managed to survive however, and the quality of their product is considered far superior to that produced by the factories. They follow time-honored cooking and picking practices that have been handed down from mother to daughter. According to those practices, the crabs used have to be absolutely fresh. Ideally, they should come straight off the boat. As soon as they arrive, they are cooked for around thirty minutes. They then go from the cooking-pot on to the worktable, where they are cooled down with ice-water. The ice water helps to loosen them from their shells, making picking easier. The pickers then take them apart, being careful to remove every last piece of meat. Expert pickers are able to do this without pieces of shell getting into the finished product. The meat is then packaged and quickly shipped to waiting buyers. Because of its freshness, lack of annoying shell-bits, and overall quality, meat that is produced and packaged by small shops is in great demand.
Sadly, the home-based businesses are meeting stiff competition from factories, which can produce the product faster and cheaper.
Performing at peak capacity, a skilled home-based picker can produce only about twenty pounds in a day. But the picker’s skills are not the only factor determining how much the home-based shops can produce. No matter how popular peekytoes are amongst the gourmet set, they are still largely a by-product of the lobster fishery. There are very few fishermen that go out of their way to catch them, and when the lobsters are plentiful, the peekytoe are fall by the wayside. Whether the demand for fresh, quality meat by upscale restaurants will continue is anybody’s guess. Culinary fads come and go, but so long as this one remains, there is hope for the small shops and traditional methods that have come to depend on it.