August 12, 2002 - "Crab Pickers"

If idle hands are the devil's playground, Satan doesn't stand a chance in Morgan City, where the nimble fingers of the crab pickers pick one clean before you can spell "crustacean."

Every day 8,000 pounds of crabs arrive at Bailey's Basin Seafood. 3,000 pounds of crabs end up in the boiling pot, on their way to the skilled hands of the pickers.

Every day from 5:00 a.m. till noon, anywhere from a half dozen to two dozen crab pickers can be found in Bailey's picking room. They'll turn the 3,000 pounds of boiled crabs into about 250 pounds of meat. If you do the math, that's about a 12 to1 ratio, which explains why I don't eat crabs very often. In my unskilled hands, it's just too much work for too little meat.

"Do you eat crabs at home?" I asked one of the pickers, Geneva Daisy.

"Yes, I do."

"So you're pretty good at picking them. Did you get better when you came down here and started doing it regular?"

"Yes," says Geneva.

On the stopwatch, she did one in 33 seconds -- under pressure with a borrowed knife, ending with a triumphant "And there's the meat. Do you want to eat it?"

Of course I did, but if you can't get your own professional crab picker, Bailey's sell the meat by the pound in local stores. They also ship Louisiana crab meat as far as Atlanta and Philadelphia.