A California Christmas

by Kris on January 9, 2012

I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday season! As you know, I spent Christmas in California with my future in-laws and my mum. It couldn’t have been a better vacation. The weather was abnormally warm and we didn’t have a drop of rain! I saw a handful of sunsets over the pacific ocean and explored many miles of the California coast. Christmas day was full of laughter and joy. I truly enjoyed spending time with the Johnson clan. My mother and I were welcomed to the family with open arms and I am so grateful to be joining this family.

Honestly, I could post every day for a month about this trip and still have more to share. I’m not kidding…I took over 1000 photos. Instead, I will recap one of my favourite days spent with the family.

My future mother in law, Caye, had always wanted to purchase fresh crabs off a fisherman’s boat, so we started the day off early with a drive to Johnson Pier (no relation) in Half Moon Bay.

We waited in line on the dock beside a boat where a young man rugged beyond his years pulled live crabs from a trap and onto a scale. I watched with amazement as the crabs attempted to claw at the man’s arms, which were always just slightly out of their reach. The line moved slowly and my anticipation grew.

The crabs were becoming scarce as patrons ahead of us placed their orders. Once we were second in line, I thought we were in the clear until I heard the person ahead of us request 20 crabs! I became  nervous as the crap population rapidly depleted from that large request. Thankfully, when our turn came the fisherman managed to fill our order of five crabs.

As the man tried to fill our cooler, the crabs fought to stay out.

After a small fight, he was able to close the lid on the feisty crustations and we were on our way.

With the crabs secured in the trunk, we ventured to our next destination; Pigeon Point Lighthouse. As we watched the restless waves crash against the coast Greg spotted a grey whale in the distance. My mum watched as a spout of water sprayed through it’s blow hole, an experience neither of us had ever had.

We continued to our next destination; Natural Bridges State Park. Butterflies swarmed the eucalyptus trees as we walked along the trail.

We had a picnic lunch and then headed to the beach. Greg could see the anticipation in the eyes of me and mum as we approached the ocean. If he has learned anything in five years, it’s that it takes incredibly cold icy water to ward off a Canadian woman from the beach.

I looked at my mum and I could tell she wanted to put her feet in the water as much as I did. We kicked off our shoes and made a break for it. We splashed around in the water like children and played tag with the waves. Caye, a California native, found our excitement over frigid water quite amusing.

After a rogue wave soaked my pants from thigh down, we continued on our trip to the redwoods. As we all strolled through the forest I recalled a conversation Greg once had with my uncle Norman. When Greg was first introduced to the family, Norman had about fifty questions for him all regarding landscape. He asked Greg “What kinda tree’s ya got down there?” and Greg replied “big ones”. At the time I laughed at his response but as I strained my neck to see the top of the redwood trees his answer finally made sense.

The mountain roads were windy and dark as we slowly made our way back home. I began to worry about the crabs in the trunk wondering if they had managed to claw their way out of the cooler and would squeeze through the crack of the back seat to seek their revenge on me. Greg and Richard joked about wrapping a live crab in gift wrap and gifting it to someone. I worried that someone could be me so I made sure to track the whereabouts of the crabs the rest of the evening.

As we arrived home we were all curious about the state of the crabs. Some speculated they had died, and some of us imagined that opening the cooler would result in something akin to the lobster scene in Annie Hall. We all crowded around the cooler as Richard opened it up. Oddly enough they had re-arranged themselves to be facing the same way, however they weren’t moving.

Relieved that they had died on the road trip, Richard and Caye placed large pots of water on the stove to boil.

In order to keep the meal authentic, we set the table with newspaper and brown paper topped with lemon wedges and seafood sauce. While the water came to a boil, mum and I decorated the table with drawings of Christmas trees and place settings.

Oven mitt in hand, Richard began the process by reaching into the cooler crab cemetery. Suddenly the crabs rose from the dead and began to fight the ominous hand that had awoken them. The long car ride didn’t kill them after all, it simply soothed them to sleep. The crabs clawed at the side of the pot refusing to subside to the boiling water.

With one smooth toss of the second crab, Richard managed to avoid the imminent struggle, and essentially slam dunk it into the pot like an LA Laker.

When eight minutes passed, the crabs were removed from the water, a brilliant shade of crimson.

The crabs then enjoyed a polar bear dip in the kitchen sink to stop the cooking process.

An assembly line was created in the kitchen as Richard broke the skirt of the crab with a meat cleaver and Caye scooped out the insides like a trooper. The rest of us stood there in awe at the grizzly procedure.

Finally we sat down to eat our dungenous crab accompanied by a caesar salad, fresh Acme Sourdough bread, and a bottle of California Chardonnay.

So to recap, for the most successful crab dinner, drive to half moon bay and purchase crabs off the boat, put them in a cooler in your trunk and drive them along the coast and through the mountains until they fall asleep, bring a pot of water to a boil, throw them in without being clawed, wait about 8 minutes and take them out, have someone with a strong stomach do the cleaning, and serve on a table covered in newspaper. Enjoy with good bread, fresh salad, a local wine and of course, family.

2011 was my best year yet, here’s to 2012!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

lorrielorrieb January 10, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Thanks for sharing. I too spent Christmas in California and it was a delight. Happy New Year.


brooke guevara January 10, 2012 at 7:43 pm

looks like you had a great time in California! I live about an hour and a half north east of half moon bay and really enjoy spending time on the coast. loved the pictures of the beach and redwoods, although, the story of the crabs made me really sad. I just kept thinking about being boiled alive…


munchinwithmunchkin January 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm

I too had moments of sadness for the crabs. If it makes you feel any better crabs have a very basic nervous system so they don’t feel nearly as much pain as other animals we eat do.


Pragya January 11, 2012 at 1:35 am

Oh my God, I absolutely love the photos!!


munchinwithmunchkin January 11, 2012 at 9:33 am

Thank you!


Spectra January 11, 2012 at 6:48 am

Big Sur looked like the perfect day! I used to live in Monterey, and always went back once or twice a year until recently, when airline hikes and other costs and this miserable economy put an end to all of that coastal glory :( Glad you had such a wonderful time! I did post a pic of the Mexican Cocoa which your post inspired (I made it for Holiday gifts) on my blog, the FoOdArAMa post.


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