Maryland - The Old Line State
Official Motto “Fatti maschii, parole femine” Manly Deeds, Womanly Words
Hear these venerated words on Real Housewives of the Potomac
Two Truths and a Lie
The Old Line refers to the Mason-Dixon line - a boundary set by surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon to settle territorial disputes between Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia. Culturally this line represents the divide between the North and South.
Jousting is the official state sport of Maryland; though modern competitors resemble Jim Craig in “Return to Snowy River” more than Heath Ledger in “A Knights Tale.”
Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” after witnessing the attack on Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. Key was an amateur poet who called the War of 1812 “abominable” favoring a diplomatic solution with Britain.
The Recipe - Old Bay Crackers
I am prepared to get some flack for this recipe. Maryland has an official state dessert, Smith Island Cake, and an unofficial state treat, Baltimore Berger Cookies. Both of these confections consist of yellow cake with fudge icing. I know that’s a beloved combination, but it's not unique to Maryland in any way. So I'm going savory, stretching the definition of “cookie” and making something to celebrate the country's largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay.
The Chesapeake’s genesis involves a meteor explosion, converging river valleys, and rising sea levels over the past 35 million years. Today the Bay is a shallow watershed where rivers and streams mingle with seawater and support countless species. Many of those species are delicious, especially with a little butter, lemon, and Old Bay seasoning. Old Bay contains celery salt, paprika, and pepper plus top-secret herbs and spices. Gustav Brunn created the trademarked mix after fleeing Hitler’s Germany in 1939. Brunn eventually sold the brand to McCormick, and the iconic yellow can with a red lid remains a supermarket staple.
I used Old Bay in my cracker dough. Homemade crackers are not technically cookies, but they involve rubbing butter into a mix of flour, sugar, and seasoning. Egg and a splash of half and half brought the dough together, which I chilled, rolled, and cut. So it was the same process as shortbread, with just a fraction of the sugar. The crackers browned nicely and smelled amazing. The shelf life can’t compare to a Ritz, but freshly baked, they were fantastic.
The crackers were good, but I was most excited about the crab salad I planned to top them with. Maryland Blue Crab is the official state crustacean, and they’re famous for their delicate texture and sweet, buttery flavor. Sadly, I couldn’t find any blue crabs for sale in Omaha. The Asian Market sold live Dungeness crabs and I know that’s the wrong coast, but it’s hard to source seafood when one lives a thousand miles away from the coast. So I purchased the Dungeness and squirmed with nerves from all the clicking sounds emitting from the bag on the way home. I boiled the big guy since it wouldn’t fit in my steamer and diligently picked out all the meat. I snuck a few pieces as I went — sooooo good! I mixed the crab meat with a little mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, and chili paste.
That spicy citrusy crab salad atop the crackers was dynamite. Flavor just exploded in my mouth. It was too time-consuming and expensive for just a snack so I pickled some onions and wrapped everything in a lettuce leaf for a fancy dinner. I wish I’d remembered to grab a nice Pilsner to wash it all down with, but still, it was one of the tastiest things I’ve made yet.
Want to experience Maryland for yourself? Then Teresa recommends ...
My college boyfriend took me to Bethesda where his relatives were gracious hosts and I had a lovely time. No pictures of this trip have survived, much like the affection of that relationship. My affection for the following books set in Maryland has stood the test of time better. “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot is a non-fiction account of the remarkable story of HeLa cells. “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” is required reading for most American scholars for good reason, his essay “Learning to Read and Write” is especially poignant. On a far lighter note, I really loved “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” series by Ann Brashares. They came out when I was in high school and helped me navigate some of the same life choices as Tibby, Bridget, Lena, and Carmen. I liked Bridget the least but identified with her the most, not sure what to make of that.
Time for the whole truth
The Old Line does not refer to the Mason-Dixon line — George Washington called Maryland troops his Old Line when they saved the Continental Army from annihilation at the Battle of Brooklyn.
(By the way, you can click on any of the 2 truths and a lie statements to visit the source of the trivia)