My Dearest Old Bay,
Perched high up on a shelf in a spice rack overlooking me as a young toddler, you radiated yellow off of your small tin can throughout my mother’s kitchen. Your rectangular shape with a steamed Maryland blue crab on the side broke necks whenever you entered the room. As my mother reached for you every night while cooking dinner, she would sigh a large sigh knowing that she could boil straight shit from the family dog’s hiney, douse it in your flavorful zest, and satisfy a family of six whose only complaint would be that there wasn’t enough for thirds. I would look at my mother in awe as she tricked us into thinking Paula Dean had died and been reincarnated in her body; my mother was just that damn good at cooking every night.
But nay, my delicious Old Bay. As I grew older, I realized that it was merely your palatable doing that made my mother’s cooking tolerable. You see, for a short period of time, she was brainwashed by some article she read on AOL 6.0 that sodium is “bad” for you. She tossed you to the wolves like you were the trendy green ketchup that expired in our fridge two years prior. During those dark days, we starved as we tried to mimic the way the landlocked states ate–like savages, attacking our bland foods and eating the calories in the name of survival.
We abandoned you, Old Bay. And what did you do when we begged for you back? You sprinkled your heavenly self over us like a holy water, cleansing us of our sins.
Still, time moved on and we grew older. We went from pairing you with a tall glass of ice-cold milk to a tall can of straight Baltimore piss, otherwise known as Natty Boh. You took a regular old Bloody Mary and revolutionized it into a Bloody Maryland, a drink fit for the hangover gods. You were devoured by the pound after every night of drinking, thanks to the impressive range of drunk foods you so magically covered. From French fries to grilled cheese, from popcorn to pizza, you never left a man behind. (If memory serves me right, I think someone actually tried to put you on top of a slice of cheesecake once. I never had the chance to try it, but thanks to your astounding 100 percent success rate, I can imagine it was nothing short of delicious.)
At last, you have followed me into my current, broke stage of life. As I uprooted my life to move halfway across the country, I knew there was the chance that this new territory would lack the best thing to happen to America since we declared independence. Naturally, I packed you up in my suitcase next to my toothbrush, and we set out on our new adventure together. While you are used to smothering hundreds of dollars worth of fresh crab straight from the Bay, your humility continued to astound me as you drowned my $1.99 Lean Cuisine mac and cheese in your powdery gold. You flavored it like a champ as you reassured me that you would always be there with me, no matter how embarrassing my paycheck was.
Throughout it all, Old Bay, I’ve always been fascinated with how you never let your reputation for seasoning perfection go to your head. You laughed in the faces of modern food packaging and marketing as you remained loyal to the original labeling produced in 1939. After all, your aroma does sell itself. You, as well as every native of the Delmarva area, tossed aside the imitators with their “Chesapeake flavoring” and “seafood zest,” because you wore the crown for being not only the original crab seasoning, but the absolute best by a Bay Bridge’s length.
We use and abuse you, hardly taking a moment to step back and say a simple thank you. So here it is.
Thanks for everything you do, Old Bay. You haven’t changed in more than 70 years, and I hope you never do.