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Eat, drink and be merry, for March is merciless

If you are in Ocean City this week, you may notice a couple of changes as you drive down Coastal Highway. The speed limit, normally 40 mph through North Ocean City, has been reduced to 30 mph, and Downtown, the speed limit has also been reduced. This is due to the expected, unauthorized H2Oi Pop-Up Rally.  It is reasonable to expect heavier than usual traffic, noise and strict enforcement of vehicle laws during the week and weekend.

This is part of the annual Year in Review series of essays. It begins with an introduction found here.

March was brutal. Those of us in the part of the country that still gets seasons all can agree upon that. We opened with an ice storm and still were punching through the cold as the month progressed. To add insult to injury, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade got rained out. People still came to town though and we all had a blast for the weekend.

Here on Delmarva, March is peculiar in that it is kind of a foodie month, providing you are as brave (or foolish) a foodie as am I. I’m speaking, of course, of the end of muskrat season. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the culinary tradition, we eat muskrat here. Last year, I learned why they, along with the other game foods, are so popular in March.

I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing two trappers in March and got the kind of insights that changed the way I looked at food. For one thing, I learned that the collapse of the Ruble had a massive effect on the local fur trade and also that there was a local fur trade. For another I got to see a trapped beaver post-mortem. They are freaking huge; like dogs, really. I profiled the second of the trappers, Morgan Bennett, for the Salisbury Star.

Trapper
Nuisance wildlife control and management professional Morgan Bennett III demonstrates the trap mechanism used in many muskrat traps

HMRA and other beer-fuled escapades

The annual Ocean City HRMA Spring Trade Show is one of my favorite events of the year. This year it was all the better because I got to give a talk about beer, which always makes me happy. I also got to hob-knob with the various purveyors of food and drink who come from all over the country to get local restaurateurs to consider carrying their products. This was the first year that craft beer had its own room separate from the liquor and wine section, which was kind of a big deal. It was in important way of distinguishing craft beer as something other than we’re used to thinking about it.

My talk went well enough, although there wasn’t much of a crowd. It’s pretty hard to compete with free beer and free food. But I also had the opportunity to visit some of the newer brewers who I hadn’t met yet. Among them were my new friends at Backshore Brewing. They recently had changed the brewery’s nameoyster_sandwich

after a lawsuit was filed (or threatened I forget which), but they were going full steam ahead.

It was at the HMRA event that the brewery introduced its newest brand, Hoop Tea a malt liquor in the Mike’s Hard lemonade vain. They were making a lot of friends and impressing people with their beer.

Brutal weather

March came in like a lion and also left like a lion, dumping snow after ice storm upon the region. One of the things I’ll be writing about this spring is how we deal with that on the Eastern Shore. Among them are events there lots of hot food is sold. People here are crazy about fried oyster sandwiches. Traditionally, the winter was the height of oyster harvesting and shipping. It’s for that reason that people start to get a taste for oysters right around the middle of winter.

Served fried and (incredibly) on white bread with ketchup, they are piping hot and a winter treat. Most of the spring festivals feature them as well. Since they’re indigenous, Eastern Shore folks are used to having them year round. But when the winter is bleakest, it is nice to have access to a fried, filling snack that reminds us we live in an area of plenty.

It’s a lesson we learned in April, as we shook off the frost and geared up for a fantastic summer.

If you want to read February, here it is.

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