GREEN  :  Prelude

      The cooking at Le Tableau was legendary. The chef had unusual tastes that only her own dishes could truly satisfy. She understood herself to be an artist, with all the attendant responsibilities that the role entails. She was constantly experimenting with the colors and textures of her specials. Presentation was prominent. Performance always loomed as a happy possibility.
      Food aside, cardboard was Chef Auger's favorite medium. Plain beige flat cardboard sheets, composed of one slice of two-hundred lb. test "B" fluting and one slice of two-hundred lb. test "C" fluting, thoroughly laminated together for additional cushioning strength. Exactly 5/16" thick, if that happened to be in stock. Just such a slab of cardboard was now facing the street from the café's front window, beckoning to the businessmen and tourists on King Street. Neat black block letters, well centered on the beige background, announcing the special of the day.
CRAB NEBULAE - $26.95

      Why would anyone order anything other than the special?

      In the constellation of Taurus, many centuries ago, a star is exploding. The explosion begins as a dramatic supernova, and the resulting nebula continues to expand at nearly a thousand miles per second until it reaches its present day size of ten light years across. The nebula is located seven thousand light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Taurus, sign of the bull.
      At the center of the Crab Nebula lies the Crab Pulsar. The Crab Pulsar is a rapidly rotating neutron star - a celestial body which measures a mere six miles across, but an object that nevertheless contains perhaps a thousand times more mass than Earth's Sun. As the pulsar rotates - at a rate of thirty times per second - the Crab Nebula's powerful magnetic field concurrently sweeps around, accelerating all of the particles in it's gravitational field, and whipping them out towards the fringes of the nebula at close to the speed of light...

      It is damn near impossible to get a drink at Le Tableau as the intense magnetic field whips everything around, acting as a cosmic slingshot. Indignant customers are spun around the room at tremendous speeds. Purses, dentures, cell phones and eating utensils are all sent hurtling into space at close to the speed of light. The maitre 'd barely suppresses a smile.

      The green glow in the inner regions of the nebula originates from the Pulsar.  Everyone agrees that it is the nicest shade of green. There are many marvelous changes taking place inside here, and they have gradually become apparent in the appearance of the central regions of the nebula. These include cloud-like structures that move outward away from the pulsar at half the speed of light, as well as a mysterious 'halo' which remains in relative position, but vacillates noticeably in brightness over time. Often seen are the enchanting visual effects of two polar jets that shoot out along the spinning side of the pulsar. The most dynamic feature - a small knot of energy that dances around so much that astronomers have taken to calling it a wacky-doodle - is actually a cosmic shock-front wherein the faster moving particles collide  with the slower material in the spectacular dynamics of the jet stream...

      Lord Rosse and John Bevis are regulars here, and by God they are more than ready for another drink, and what's more, they are in full agreement that once the spinning slows down they'll be having a word or two with the manager. Bevis is anchoring the breadbasket with the crook of his hand while the fine Lord Rosse smoothes his velvet Oxtail jacket and glares around the room. He is trying to catch the eye of today's server, the whimsically named 'Doolie', but Doolie seems to have an instinctive ability to avoid all eye contact. Besides, as Lord Rosse notices, much to his disgust, Doolie and the Maitre 'd are sharing a drink of Chateau Rosella '93 - a drink that should rightly be residing in his glass - drinking it straight from the bottle like a couple of railroad bums.

      Long ago Chinese astrologers recorded the Crab star's strange transformation. Appearing in the sky above the southern horn of the constellation folks call Taurus was a star that these learned men described as six or seven times brighter than Venus. How bright is that? The star's illumination was so brilliant that people could see it in the sky during the day for almost a month. Chinese astronomers sketched the star, their renderings showing rays that pointed in four directions in the manner of a geometric diamond. It had a reddish-white color, and a startling high-pitched squeal. They affectionately referred to the nebula as Chow Sin, after Chow Sin the Crab, a popular children's cartoon character of the time.
      Twentieth century scientists have discovered that the Crab is emitting some of the strongest radio waves of any celestial object in the whole of the Taurus neighborhood. In 1973 a high-altitude rocket detected the presence of massive amounts of deadly X-ray energy emitting from the nebula. If the blast had occurred as nearby as fifty light-years from Earth, astronomers speculate that all living things would have been destroyed by the initial waves of radiation. Life would have been impossible for eons
      Radio waves. X-rays. Serrano chilies. Hyper-saturated magnetic fields. Scientists knew that the Crab Nebula was a powerful source of turbulence, but this went beyond the ridiculous.

      To kill the crab you must either plunge it into a large pot of boiling water for a minute, or electrocute it, or maybe just place it on its crustaceous back atop a cutting board and split the body down the middle with one quick blow from a sharpened Chinese cleaver. If it is your desire to use the upper shell as the centerpiece for a presentation, the first technique will usually serve you best.
      If you have not already done so, split the body of the crab into two halves with legs and claws still attached. Carefully crack each leg and claw segment with a rubber mallet. Holding the crab's body by it's broken legs, gently pull off the shell.  Slowly, slowly, so as to avoid excess dismemberment. Discard the feathery gills on either sides of the body and the pull out spongy mess in the middle of the back; then rinse the crab and it's exoskeleton under cold water until nothing but shell and meat remain. Pull out those gross little bits of greenish fat from the corners of the shell; if desired, reserve them for the sauce. Drain thoroughly...

      Neutron stars are the only celestial bodies capable of spinning on their axis at such an incredible rate of speed without breaking apart. In this manner, the Crab Pulsar acts as a celestial power station, generating enough energy to keep the entire nebula radiating over the full electromagnetic spectrum...

      Place both halves of the crab in a large bowl along with three ounces of olive oil, ginger and grated garlic, Add Serrano chilies and a generous grinding of fresh peppercorns. Marinate the whole concoction for three or four hours in the back of the refrigerator. Maybe there is something cold gold and delicious inside of the fridge. Pull out and drink slowly. You have earned this treat. Repeat.

      Lord Rosse and Bevis have been literally flung out of Le Tableau and onto the cluttered street. Rosse has no drink, this is true, but neither does he have a tab. "Not", says Bevis, rubbing his aching buttocks while trying to maintain a look of quiet dignity, "that we would have paid one red cent, considering the lackluster quality of the service."
      The Lord sputters into a chipped red cell phone that he has picked up off the sidewalk. He scowls as he plucks at his jacket. Small greenish bits of fat cling to the expensive fabric. There is absolutely no doubt that he will forward his cleaning bill to the proprietor of this renegade establishment. Bevis has begun to gather up random pieces of cutlery that have preceded him out of the door. They are much nicer than the silver he presently has at home.

      Are you ready to proceed? Remove the crab from the marinade fifteen minutes before you commence cooking. Fifteen minutes exactly. Grill the halves inside of the shell over a hot propane fire until the outer shells are bright red and the meat inside of the largest sections is opaque. This should take about three to four minutes per side. Or as an alternative, you may place the crab halves and shell in a roasting pan - what the hell? - lightly oiled, with a bit of the marinade spread over the top, and
then roast them in a 450F oven until done as described above.
      Meanwhile, strain the vegetables out of the marinade and combine with butter in a saucepan. Wait, sorry. We haven't mentioned vegetables up to this point. This is the marinade without the vegetables. Never mind. Simmer this for approximately five minutes. You may wish to serve the marinade in small pale yellow Lenox bowls as a dipping sauce for the crab. You are now ready for a delightful dining experience.

      The street is misty wet and enormously quiet for a Friday night. Lord Rosse is whistling a fanciful tune. He is looking smart once again. An old stretch Cadillac, coffee colored, lights flashing a signal, pulls around the corner.