Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Please Pass the Old Bay

You can hear those words often at our dinner table. Especially when we have shrimp or oven fries. It's a story of our Maryland heritage. Even for our NY born children. Old Bay Seasoning.

Recently, I read an article entitled, The Measure of Old Bay Seasoning in The Washington Post online- a little known fact is that Dan and I still read The Post daily even after just about ten years in NY. It's like if I keep up with local DC metro news I won't be completely out of the loop if I ever get to move "back home". Plus, I can amaze my friends with intelligent conversation about local happenings. I'll tell you another secret...I still read the news from Baltimore and Carroll County too though not daily.

The article was about Old Bay Seasoning and how it's still going strong after 70 years. You have to click in to see the article even if it's just to see the Old Bay slide show! I found the history of Old Bay fascinating and of course I'm super happy that so many love it because I can find a full array at our local Wegmans grocery store right here in central NY State.

The article spoke about a Maryland native in California who has a 4 x 6 tattoo of a can on his calf. About how Old Bay has over 44,000 fans on Facebook. About how Bryant Gumbel of the Today Show once quipped that Marylanders will put Old Bay on anything. I concede that one is almost true. Nothing takes you back to Maryland quite like the taste and smell of Old Bay on your food. Although the old Maryland addage is true- never eat a crabcake outside of Maryland or too far from the Chesapeake Bay, Old Bay makes the heart grow fonder for the things we miss. Like a big, fat, broiled crabcake or a big pile of steamed Maryland blue crabs.

As much as I crave these two items sometimes, I staunchly refuse to partake of the pitiful "Maryland Crab Cakes" that can be found in the seafood case on Thursdays at Wegmans. In a particularly weak moment on a Thursday afternoon, I actually went up to the seafood guy and asked him..."Really? A Maryland crab cake? Will it meet the expectations of a native Marylander? You think it's so good you'll claim the name Maryland crab cake?" He told me not to try it. I didn't.

So for now, we cultivate our Maryland heritage here in NY. Even if it's most pronounced through our habitual use of Old Bay Seasoning on a variety of foods. I'm a Marylander through and through. So much so I had anxiety about moving across the Potomac into Virginia when we first got married! One river border with a lot riding on it. South of it people are into rolling hills and horse country, Cavaliers and Hokies. When we had our first child and named him "E" I was told it was a yankee name from the old ladies at our church! I even had one man comment at how much of Marylander I was because of my education- University of Maryland and Western Maryland College.

It got worse in NY...I actually met two Marylanders here within my first week in my MOPS group who had long since given up the Maryland culture. I wouldn't let go. I still won't. Lake Ontario and the Fingerlakes are beautiful. There's a large boating culture here, but it still doesn't hold a candle to the Chesapeake Bay. The water doesn't even smell the same! The presence of salt in the water makes all the difference. Dan's Maryland heritage is somewhat muddled with his Virginia one. He was born there and went to Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!), but he grew up in Annapolis and will tell you the same thing. His Annapolitan roots come out when he's near the water. I'm telling you. It's just not the same here.

Have you ever cut in line on someone? Witnessed it? My kids tell me that's budging. What? What does that even mean I asked the first time I heard it. Ohhhhh....you mean butting I would say. Then E11 would say, "Mommy that's a potty word." No, it's not! If you butt in line you are butting like a goat. Nothing potty-esque about that. My kids are all budgers...so odd! They don't do it really but the word on the street here is definitely budge. Not long after I was introduced to budging I was at the library checking out books when a little boy came running up to the check out desk to gets his books. His mom said, "Hey don't butt...it's not your turn!" I looked up and said, "You're from Maryland!" And yes she was!! We had a bonding moment.

Traffic here is so laid back, it's hard to drive back home in Maryland. Dan white knuckles it every time we go back there. It's good to be home he'll say through gritted teeth. I was on a local state highway a while back going by an entrance ramp. All of a sudden, a car shot out from that ramp and gunned it ahead of me to cut into the traffic lane. Really? There was no one behind me at all. He could have waited. But he didn't and I said to myself...you know I'd make a bet that guy's from Maryland. Sure enough. At the next light I got a look at his license plate frame- a dealership on the Maryland side of the capital beltway (the beltway around DC). He was still practicing the do it or die mentality of getting on to that crazy highway.

Also, any time you are tail-gaited chances are pretty high it's a Marylander. I don't tailgate though. Some characteristics of the average Marylander are not ones I want to hold on to!

My Maryland roots are so strong that when I read the requirements for homeschooling my children and it said that we had to do NY state history once between grades 3 and 6, I immediately thought...Why? Who cares about NY? We'll do Maryland history!! And we will. (don't worry...we've done NY history too...how in the world did I end up with three NY natives and one Virginian with a yankee name?)

I even sound Maryland. Never noticed that until I was away for a few years. Now I'm used to how folks around here sound and folks back home sound really, really Bald-i-mer. Closed Os and that whole "Goin' Down di ooocean hon" sound. One day it hit me. All at once. That is how I sound to everyone here!! My friends all laughed. Yeah, you don't sound like you're from around here.

No, I don't. I'm a Mare-linder all the way.

Right on down to the frequent use of the Old Bay.


Michele said...

Love Old Bay Seasoning here!

pinkim(sis) said...


pinkim said...

Hey, if you haven't already done so, you should take the family down to the museum of industry, on the water in Baltimore. We went with the girl scouts and it is fascinating. You will be amazed at the number of compamies that started here. Also a wonderful sewing section! You get to see all of the old original products and a lot more.

Heather said...

Very cool Kim! I've been to the city life museum, but not that one.

Alana said...

So, would you say you have Maryland Angst? Just wondering? :D

Alice said...

Great post, even if you are from the other side of the river. :)

I personally hate Old Bay Seasoning and can't understand how you guys up there can stand the stuff. Now give me a good Virginia ham and we can talk.

My college roommate was from outside Baltimore (Bel Air) and she would always talk about the delicious "snow balls" they had in the summer at the snow ball stand. That puzzled me until realized she meant snow CONES. When I went up there to visit her one summer I was impressed by the variety of snow ball flavors but couldn't believe they offered toppings....her favorite was marshmallow topping which was just about the most disgusting thing I could imagine. Other than Old Bay seasoning that is.

Heather said...

Ok...but it could never run as deep and wide as the TEXAS angst friend!


Suzanne said...

Totally get the Old Bay Seasoning, the DC metro mentality, and the different "speak" of Maryland. My parents are from Philadelphia and even though I didn't grow up there, I speak like the locals. I use a strawl instead of a straw, etc. I went to high school in Northern Virginia and to college with a lot of people from Baltimore County, love the blue crabs. And we just moved from Northern VA and the driving there still amazes me. It's a little better here in CA but not much.

Heather said...

Hilarious!!! I do have SNO BALLS and I used to have grape ones with the MARSHMALLOW!! LOL That is awesome!

Denise @ Creative Kitchen said...

Enjoyed this post!! I also wanted to let you know (as a periodic blog reader of yours) that I truly love your writing style and photographs!

I have your blog as part of my FIAR group in my google reader, and use it as resource when "rowing" a book.

I've just gotten into blogging a lot more since I created my kitchen/cooking blog. I've been in & out with blogging starting with Leah's cranio journey blog (fearfully and wonderfully made), and then tried to delve into a homeschool family blog from there. Now that I'm posting my passion (cooking) on a blog, I think I'll get more into our family one as far as posting more frequently.

Thanks for sharing!

Heather said...

Thanks Denise...does that mean that you have some fabulous Old Bay recipes??

Shauna said...

I enjoy hearing about the American culture in other parts of the country. I'm from middle America, and I must admit that I've never even heard of Old Bay before! Strangely enough, I've lived overseas and traveled to other parts of the world, but I still haven't been east of Missouri in the US.

Heather said...

Shauna I might just have to send you some if you can't find it!!!

I've been to CA and CO, but no where else yet west of the Mississippi.

Gail said...

funny how our cultures affect us and stay with us. We just moved back to our native NY after 7 years in Ohio......Now we really miss things about Ohio that are exclusive to Ohio. Also since my Mom was a South Carolina native, I also have southern influence....like I was the only kid growing up in NY that loved okra, blacked-eyed peas and collard greens!

Keep the Old Bay Heather! I'm sure NY will rub off on you just a little! Fun post!

Lynn said...

Heather, I so enjoyed reading this. I don't know that I've ever tried Old Bay Seasoning. After reading this, I'm thinking I'd remember it if I had! Who knew Marylanders were so...different! LOL


Brenda said...

Heather, you're making me homesick! Gotta love those Md drivers!

Anonymous said...

Hey Heather!

Just for the record, I am born and raised in NY and I have never liked the term "budge". I have always preferred "butt".

And we love Old Bay!

I'm just sayin'.