It's funny how you take pride in things that aren't really yours to be proud of, things for which you haven't the slightest claim of authorship. Yet there I was, wrapping up an al fresco meal with out-of-town friends, looking out on Baltimore's Inner Harbor, holding forth about the impending end of the soft-crab season--and feeling quite proud of it all. Proud of the beautiful boats drifting by, proud of the Seven Foot Knoll lighthouse perched at the end of Pier 5, proud of the marvelous meal we'd just eaten, of the charming tomboyish waitress who'd brought it to us, even of the water itself, which was riffled and glittery on this breezy and perfect June afternoon. It was all just so . . . Chesapeakey.
Or maybe it just seemed that way because the day had gotten off to such a rocky start. Our friends Kay and Alan had arrived from New Jersey at around 1 p.m., and we had quickly determined that, after such a long drive, they were in desperate need of a large and lumpy dose of crabcake--which meant of course lunch at Angelina's restaurant, famous Baltimore purveyor of that particular restorative. Which way to Harford Road, hon?
Before we could get the mission under way, however, Becky, my beloved better half, was attacked by a dog. Don't you hate when that happens? Actually it was our dog, Dink, who was attacked; Becky just happened to be at the other end of Dink's leash, and of course got dragged into the fracas. Literally dragged. Dink ran home, and Becky came along a few minutes later, white as a ghost and bleeding from all three places that had met the sidewalk.
So now Becky needed a good crabcake too, and maybe a bottle of Chianti. Or maybe just the Chianti. Trouper that she is, she slapped on a few makeshift bandages and we headed off to Angelina's for a late lunch . . . only to find it closed until 4 p.m. Drat! we all said. Or words to that effect.
Plan B: the Inner Harbor. Surely we'd find a decent crabcake down there. As it turns out, we didn't. We found a lovely shady table on the dining patio at McCormick & Schmick's, a cavernous and clubby seafood restaurant on Pier 5, next to the Aquarium. But there would be no crabcakes today. Our waitress, wise beyond her years and no doubt a Marylander, saw the crab lust in Kay's eyes and covertly warned us off the cakes. Too much filler, she said under her breath; we'd be very disappointed.
So we diversified--soft crabs, scallops, black cod, seared tuna, etc.--and settled in for a leisurely waterside feast. The futile trek up Harford Road was all but forgotten. Our memory of the dog attack was already changing color, well on its way to becoming a red-letter amusing anecdote. And there I sat, proud as could be of something that wasn't really mine to be proud of, the Chesapeake. But that's okay; just this once I'd take the credit. Don't tell Kay and Alan.