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I am what might best be described as an optimistic amateur cook. I have in the past also described myself as “enthusiastic” especially when I am trying to explain away the mountain of pots and pans left at the end of a new recipe. Da Boss has another word or two for this, but let’s not spoil anything right at the start.

Anyway, my eyes brightened when I happened to spot spider crab in our local supermarket and so I duly returned home with a change to last night’s menu.

Da Boss stared at my “surprise meal” and announced that she was having nothing to do with it and departed to go and do something exciting like vacuum the cat. I will admit that I didn’t pay much attention to what she had said, so bear with me if her task was something completely different. But back to the evening meal.

The crab was already cooked and I had also mixed salad leaves and baby pea shoots and a decent fine herbs dressing. And as an accompaniment I had chosen date and walnut bread – always a winner with Da Boss. I was pretty smug about my plans, tonight was going to be a triumph.

I was however, smart enough to know that crabs could pose a problem or two if not prepared well in advance and so I dived over to YouTube to get all the hints and tips needed to astound my dear wife with a delicious meal. What is more I planned to have the kitchen spotless before she even came down to eat – pretty smart eh?

The YouTube videos all seemed pretty good and I learned all about how to open the shell, remove legs and so on and even which bits had to be got rid of sharpish (that was those weird finger like tendrils at the side by the way).

I duly snapped off claws and put everything into neat piles ready for the grand shell opening. And, in fact, I was pretty good at the whole process. I worked my way through the video stage by stage, putting all unnecessary stuff down the food gulper. (yes I know there is a proper name for the waste disposal thingy, but I can’t remember it).

Brown meat was spooned out and then it was the turn to crack open the insides to get out the white meat. Armed with a metal skewer I poked and prodded my way around all the tiny crevices and eventually managed to amass a small heap of tasty white meat. How do I know it was tasty? Oh, for goodness’ sake, cook’s privileges you know!

Now the guy on the main YouTube video had commented that he was somewhat surprised at not being able to get spider crab meals at hotels and restaurants around our coastline. After all these crabs are quite the delicacy on the continent and almost all of those caught were shipped off there.

He then went on to say that the meat in the legs and claws was particularly delicious and that he liked to serve those separately as part of the meal time ritual. However, in his bowl of crabmeat there appeared to be far more than I had managed to find and so I decided to open the legs and claws to add more bulk to the prepared crab dish.

I had even had the foresight to dig out the nutcrackers which normally rest in a drawer from one Christmas to the next, so with those and the big metal skewer I was feeling pretty confident that this was indeed going to be a delicious meal to add to my repertoire.

Now, you may recall that I described myself as “an optimistic cook”. Oh how that optimism and cheerfulness was challenged over the next forty minutes or so. Cracking claws and legs is not anywhere near as simple as the guy on the video made out. He never watched helplessly as the claw skidded out of the nutcrackers, nor did he find his fingers trapped mercilessly between the jaws of the nutcracker.

He never discovered that the skewer would develop a mind of its own when trying to pick out flakes of white meat from legs and claws, mind you he did keep mentioning crab crackers and lobster or Crab picks as ideal tools. Unfortunately none of those items were available to me.

I will however give you some recommendations when tackling your first spider crab legs and claws. First of all do have alcohol or some other relaxant handy. Secondly do keep patience. Thirdly do not get so pissed off at a large unyielding claw that you batter it with a hammer.

The resulting shattering of the claw meant that I had to stop work completely for twenty minutes as I hunted out shards of crab shell which had scattered right round the kitchen. Remember that I had made a promise to have the kitchen neat and tidy before letting Da Boss back into the kitchen? Well the crab shell episode certainly put me to the test.

The fact that Indy, our Bengal cat, spent the best part of an hour staring hard under one of the large chairs later that evening did make me a little nervous but I did check things out later that night, and sure enough there was a chunk of crab shell waiting to be picked up.

I am not going to bother you with the rest of this rather challenging afternoon, but I will sum it up by saying that it meant I missed watching the Grand National (One of Britain’s most bet on horse races) However I did pick first and fifth and so shall collect some winnings later in the week.

The meal itself was delicious, but it will be quite some time before I am lulled into my usual optimistic mood whenever crab is mentioned. They say that a trouble shared is a trouble halved. I am not sure how often I will have to share this before the pain finally goes. In the meantime if you ever fancy a crab meal then always make sure that someone else is preparing it. That way your enjoyment will be guaranteed!