Sig’s King Crab, deep fried fingers and the perils of beached cows.

In front of our apartment. Ocean Shores, WA ca. 1975

On our way to Disneyland. Look at the sun! California vacation, 1976

First bike with banana seat. Everett, WA 1977

First bike with banana seat. Everett, WA 1977

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A good portion of my growing up years were spent in the wilds of Washington State. A huge contrast to the California where my earliest years began, all smiles and sunshine. It rained so incessantly I was convinced the sun had died.The storms would howl so hard my mom would crack the windows to keep the wind from crushing them in, this happened with such frequency it sticks in my mind as just another cozy memory.  Right along with my cousins and I getting on the school bus at 5 am to be driven two hours away to our three room school. The bus was equipped with a sand bucket under the carriage, to be expelled on to the road with a lever if ice should cause the bus to slide.

I learned that sometimes the storms would become so violent the waves would reach into the cow pastures and sweep the bovine away. I learned this when I stopped on the beach to take off my rubber boot to pull up my sock. Hopping on one foot to keep my balance it suddenly occurred to me the sand looked a bit hairy. Looking slightly up my eyes landed on an a white trimmed ear sticking out of the sand. It suddenly dawned on me that I was indeed bouncing up and down on the belly of a dead cow. How much longer could I bounce here before my legs pierced the hide. Mooooooooom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

With all of this rough and tumble wilderness there was one thing that scared me more than the sea waves that devoured cows in one gulp. It came in the form of an 8 legged, thorny creature. Being an only child I relied a great deal on my imagination to entertain myself, often to my parents frustration. There were just somethings you couldn’t talk me out of. Monsters lived under the bed and the giant crab, bolted to the ceiling outside that fast-food window at the fish market, had one goal in life, to suck my little body dry.

At the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle there is a small window where you can buy delicacies of the sea, clam chowder, fried clams and the like. Outside this window one of the biggest King Crab’s ever caught is bolted to the roof.  Never mind it was long dead and thoroughly restrained, there was nothing my parents could say to get me to stand like a good little girl and wait my turn in line. I stood firmly to the side staring intently at this monster, ready to bolt the minute I detected the slightest movement.

King Crab fishing is ranked as one of the most dangerous occupations in the US with over 300 deaths per 100,000. This is due to a number of factors. The fishing is done deep at sea, in the middle of winter in the midst of icy storms. This means not only is hypothermia a distinct possibility, the heavy equipment being tossed around as the the waves pummel the boat makes work conditions less than ideal.  Never mind the 100’s of tons of thorned crabs you have to wrestle down. Limbs get crushed in the heavy equipment, people fall overboard into the icy waters, the boats sink from the weight of the ice deposits… It is a hard and laborious occupation. Equally challenging is the unpredictable reward. If the catch makes it back to shore without damage or death there are large sums of money to be had. If not you may just as well be shelling out the big bucks lost on expenses. Dangerous and risky is a gross understatement.

The other night Fredrik Skalvan had invited, Sig Hansen-King Crab captain of many years, and Marcus Samuelsson-celebrity cook, to his show for a TV interview. As Captain Hansen explained, family or not, on his boat you follow orders or your off the crew, Marcus Samuelsson piped in and tried to explain why his temper starts to fly in his kitchen. It went something like this, It’s like my job.  It’s dangerous in a kitchen, you never know when someone will…stick their finger in a deep fryer. This is where he began to falter.   Ha, ha, Marcus, while you are in the warmth of your kitchen wrestling Herring, Sig is out wrestling man-size arachnids in a watery deep freeze. Sounded better in your head didn’t it. Don’t worry it happens to the best of us.

But, now I just can’t seem to take Samuelsson serious. Every time I see his smiling face staring back at me from whatever endorsement he has loaned his name to whether it be kitchen spices or Taco Bell, my fantasy instantly begins to work away. A vision of Marcus standing in his kitchen facing off with his sous chef, takes form. Eyes locked on to each other. Finger poised over the deep fryer signaling the definitive challenge of authority.  Grrrrrrr and fffft fffft.

Kitchen Safety

Sarcasm aside, while you can’t compare cooking to the perils of King Crab fishing in the Bering Sea, the kitchen CAN be a dangerous place if not respected. You can tell a chef by their arms, roll up their sleeve and you will inevitably find a variety of burn scars. That is why long sleeves are a must. Cut’s are also a common injury, learning good knife technique is strongly recommended. Probably the worst of them all though is the slip and fall, as it may very well be compounded with burns, cuts, broken bones and/or head injury depending on what one falls against or has in their hands.

Just a few basics to keep in mind.

Keep your knives in good working condition. Take your time and eyes on the blade.

Keep your floor dry and clean so you don’t slip and fall.

Wear long sleeves, aprons and shoes. Yes, shoes. They keeps hot liquids from burning your feet when spilled and sharp, heavy objects from injuring your feet when dropped.

Keep your cool especially when working with others. Communicate, communicate, communicate. If your walking behind someone with hot objects in your hands let them know you are there.

Have a fire extinguisher in the house.

Keep your kitchen surfaces and hands clean to prevent infection.

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