Growing up, roughly once per summer we'd get a bunch of dungeness crabs and cook them for a giant crab feast. Some years we'd buy it from a local fish shop. Some years we'd go down to the White Rock beach and get them ourselves by hand.
By the time the October 2004 trip rolled around, I hadn't had fresh crab in probably six years. Also, all of my surviving grandparents were going to be in town for Thanksgiving. I had suggested to mom before I came out that crab might be a really good thing to have while I was out there.
Hillary was not into seafood.
I mean, she would be okay with shrimp on a pad thai or a tuna noodle casserole, but other than that? Food from the ocean was not high on her radar.
This was a long slow process for me. I somewhat regularly cooked the fish dishes I knew were general crowd pleasers. Salmon with a maple glaze. Trout with lemon and garlic in it. The fish that generally didn't have a fishy taste.
So Hillary is out in White Rock now and it comes up that on Saturday, we were going to have crab. She puts on a brave face and is ready to go with it. Privately, she asks me a bunch of questions. "How do you eat them?" "Can you help me?" "Can I just kind of skip this?"
I'm going to paraphrase the version of the story that I heard her say so many times. I can't do it in her voice, but I'll try to get the gist.
"So we're sitting in the dining room. Joanne and Randy, all of Warren's grandparents. Everyone has gotten started and is using the nutcrackers to crack the crabs and is focused and eating. Especially Nana. You have to picture this precise, fairly proper old lady ripping apart the crabs. Water and crab juice flying everywhere across the table as people pulled these apart."
I mostly did the hard work of shelling the crabs and gave chunks to Hillary as she was unwilling to do it.
We would do this a few more times during our marriage.
The last time was for my birthday in 2018. I hadn't had crabs in a few years and requested them. Following that meal, Hillary told me, "That was really good. I'm glad we started doing this all those years ago. I might even ask to do this again this summer when they are actually in season."
She didn't have crab again, other things came up. But I'm good with knowing that a proper food tradition from my family made it into Hillary's upper tier of special dinners.