I wanted to go home once more before I took off and when Paula mentioned that her friend’s Mom, Mrs. Sharma, was going to be in Maryland we thought we’d take a short road trip down the Eastern seaboard. Mrs. Sharma splits her time between New Delhi where she keeps a house and Maryland where her son and his family live, and since I’m going to be in India for an extended period of time (and I don’t know a single person there), Paula thought it would be nice for me to meet Mrs. Sharma. To add some food and cultural elements to our trip, we decided to check out the famous Maryland blue crabs and maybe go down to D.C. for some museum hopping. Paula did her usual foodie research and came up with a few options around the Chesapeake Bay area and Baltimore for crabs and also noted that luckily for us, they are still in season.
I intercepted Paula at Penn Station on her way back from Boston and we took a train to my parents’ in PA. I had been looking forward to my Mom’s food since she called a few days before and ask what we wanted to eat. The menu was as follows- kimchi dumplings, spicy jellyfish salad, Mom’s special ham hock, Jalapeno peppers stuffed with beef, mung bean pancakes (bindaetteok), variety of kimchi’s, and … 2 bottles of red wine. Once my parents found out Paula can eat spicier foods than I can and also love to have a few glasses of wine, they decided that she should come and visit anytime she liked. By the end of our short stay, Dad made an offer to officially adopt her into the Park family.
We woke up early the next day to start our drive down to Maryland for a crab-tastic lunch and visit Paula’s friends. It was a gorgeous fall day and we were happy to be on the road under great road trip conditions. I had been a bit nervous about driving since I hadn’t really driven long distances since college but once we got going, I found myself at ease and enjoying the changing scenery around us. We decided to go to a place called “Waterman’s” and then to a wild life reserve on the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay before heading to Paula’s friends’ house. We made the trip in less than 3 hours but to our great dismay, the restaurant was CLOSED! We checked their website before we headed out and no where did we read that after October 14, they would be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. argh! change of plans. We were definitely disappointed but did have a beautiful view of the Bay and had the entire place to ourselves….
Determined and eager to have our crab meal, we drove an hour to the other side of the Bay in search of Jimmy Cantler’s Riverside Inn. This time, we called ahead to confirm that they were indeed open. Just about an hour later, we were seated outside under a heated tent structure, ready to order our crab-tacular meal. We ordered the Cantler’s crab dip, a lump crab cake sandwich, and 6 extra large crabs to really make our lunch crab-by. The crab dip came first. It was salty and creamy, and made a great spread for the hot and crusty bread, but we knew it wasn’t the main focus of our meal so after a few bites, we set it aside. Next came the lump crab cake. This is what Paula had been looking forward to and it didn’t disappoint. This crab cake had almost no filler and all you tasted was the sweet and juicy crab meat. The spices weren’t too over powering either. I thought it was nearly perfect. And then finally, we were given a tray of red hot crabs. Our kind waitress showed the two out-of-towners the proper ways to eat a crab and we (at least I) went all hands in. It was a while before I realized that Paula was eating her crabs like a lady, using just a few fingers to gently pry open those small crevices. It’s really not her thing, eating with her hands and all. But I have to say, she did a fine job. The crabs were actually bigger than I had thought and because they were meatier, with just three crabs each we were quite full.
Thoroughly content with our meal and the overall experience at Cantler’s we left for another hour’s drive to our final destination of the day. Little did I know that another round of foodie fun was awaiting us at Catherine’s house!
We arrived later than we had anticipated due to our unexpected detour of the crab restaurants but the Sharma family welcomed me as if I had always been a part of their lives. They were incredibly kind and generous, and the two boys were the most handsome little human beings I have ever seen. They stayed up late playing and having dinner with us, and Mrs. Sharma (the Grandmother) allowed me to assist in her puri making. She had already made the dough so all I had to do was take a handful to make a small ball, roll it out flat, and drop it into the hot oil to fry it up. Every time I dropped the disc of dough into the oil, I would hold my breath for a second to see if it actually puffed up. Later Mrs. Sharma told me I had done well and said “and you see? all of your puris puffed up!” whew.
Both Paula and I were still pretty full from our lunch, but we knew what had to be done. We pulled up to the dinner table to eat the hot puri with some dal, cauliflower and potatoes cooked with curry, mushrooms, and beef cutlets (Catherine made these using her Mom’s recipe). Needless to say, it was all very delicious and it saddened me that I couldn’t eat more.
After dinner Mrs. Sharma, Paula, and I stayed up discussing our possible rendezvous in India and all the delicious Indian food we could have…
The next morning, after drinking two cups of Mrs. Sharma’s chai, we left for D.C. and before I could say “Smithsonian,” we were looking for parking in D.C. For some odd and fortunate reason, we avoided any traffic, crowds around town, and immediately found street parking a few yards in front of the Smithsonian.
I hadn’t been to D.C. since I was a little kid and my recent reading of Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol” made it extra fun for me to look around and take in all the sights. We made the most of the time we had there by going to the National Air and Space Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum, the National Museum of American History, and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. We saw everything from the Spirit of St. Louis, Buzz Aldrin’s spacesuit, Guillermo Kuitca’s exhibit at the Hirshhorn, Abraham Lincoln’s hat, Dorothy’s ruby slippers, Michele Obama’s inaugural dress by Jason Wu, Julia Child’s kitchen, to dinosaur bones. It was as if I were swept away into my own Wizard of D.C hurricane made of history, art, and culture.
This is how we come to the last chapter of my short road trip before my longer trip. We drove back to PA late in the afternoon, arriving safely at my parents’ house in time for dinner. The only present we brought home was this-
and thus really came the end of our road trip. As they say, “what happens in PA, stays in PA.”