I can very clearly remember when I had my first crab. I was kindergarten-age and suffering from constant nosebleeds. My parents were very troubled by that and like all Chinese parents, we saw a dozen people suggesting hundreds of methods - eating raw lotus roots is among one of many. Somehow a smart person suggested eating a freshly steamed crab as a way to stop nosebleeds.
So I was picked up by my parents, probably from my sitter's. And there was this cage with a strange, dark crustacean in the front seat. I thought we have a new pet and was all excited about giving it a name. Until Dad (or Mum?) told me it is to be eaten.
Back home I studied the animal. It was the nearest and least-adulterated creature compared to illustrated animals in children's storybooks. Its claws were tied so that it does not pinch and escape, sideways. I asked how are we going to eat it when everything visible on the crab seems rock solid? To this Mum shoved me away from the kitchen and prepared the ritual to sacrifice the innocent crab for her son's cessation of future nosebleeds.
Then I heard unusual clickety-clacks from our wok, lid-covered and on full flames. Later the crab, still whole, now Sunkist orange with hues of blood red, appeared lifeless on the table. There and then I understood it had been steamed to death in the wok. With my primitive kindergarten mind I imagined if its last moments were comfortable, like being in a hot tub, or scary, like the Holocausts in the gas chambers. Vegetarianism is still 20 years away so I am not in any way saddened or disturbed. It is now that I feel sorry for the crab, who might have lived to bear offsprings.
Dad and I shared the crab. I ate mostly the claws, horrified by the anatomical contents inside the shell. I did, however, toyed with the lungs, recalling 10 years later the cell-thin blood-gas barrier to my first crab.
I still have occasional nosebleeds, to which the taste of raw lotus roots and steamed mud crabs waffled up the brain. Eventually my parents gave up on trying and just bought plenty of tissue papers around. And they became almost vegan I heard.
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