If my Mom and my wife will forgive me, the best food experience I’ve ever had took place at a seaside campground in Salter Path, North Carolina. On certain weekends in my younger years, my buddy Robert and I would meet at the campground there. Masters of our universe, we kicked back under a shady spot with a cold beer in one hand, a plastic fork in the other, and ate the fish we had caught that day on the pier. Scaling and gutting, not so fun, and rain could ruin things, but quite frankly, times like that were heaven on earth.
You can’t duplicate that sort of thing, but you can create new food experiences that are similar. Inspired and informed by Bob Tagert’s cover article in the most recent issue of Alexandria’s Old Town Crier, “Enjoying Chesapeake Blue Crab in Southern Maryland,” the better half and I drove to Mechanicsville to chow down at Captain Leonard’s seafood restaurant.
Tagert reviewed almost a dozen places, so narrowing it down to one choice was not easy. I had hoped for a waterside locale, but Captain Leonard’s won us over by Tagert’s write up - “one of those down home restaurants where furniture and table settings take a back seat to good food… voted finest crabs in Maryland in 2011 and 2012.”
Visiting this part of the region without taking in views of its waters is like going to San Francisco and not seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. So we tacked on a visit to Colton Point, one of Southern Maryland’s smaller peninsula tips, to see the St. Clement’s Island/Potomac River Museum. Quite frankly, I had never heard of it. But its proximity to our chosen lunch spot punched the ticket.
The museum, situated on the mainland, is one of those hidden jewels. The Potomac River part takes a back seat to their fabulous telling of the story of the first Maryland colonists who arrived from England. 300 strong and weary after the long voyage, they landed on the island on March 25, 1634.
Led by Leonard Calvert, first Governor of the state, the colonists erected a wooden cross on the island and conducted the first Roman Catholic mass in English America. A few days later, they permanently settled on another peninsula tip twenty miles to the south and east (about ten miles south of Solomon’s Island), a place they would call St. Mary’s.
Picked up "St Mary’s County" (Images of America) by Linda Davis Reno. She notes:
“Although the organizers of the Maryland venture were Catholic, the majority of the settlers were Protestants, many of them indentured servants. Settlers, regardless of religious affiliation, aided in the establishment of the colony and participated fully in the government. In 1649, Maryland officially became the birthplace of religious freedom in the New World when the Religious Toleration Act was passed at St Mary’s City.”
We hope to visit St Mary’s soon. I bet some blue crabs will be eaten too…