I wish I knew the story behind the seafood cocktails that were a tradition in my maternal grandparents' home on holidays. I don't know that the family ever lived near the ocean. They emigrated from Bohemia and settled in Minnesota. My Grandmother Mary, a 25 year old spinster in the federal census report, followed her brothers out to Washington Territory to take up a homestead. The story was that her brothers wanted more than the 180 acres they could claim. She was supposed to "prove up" a claim so that they could have more land.
But she met another man of Bohemian descent, my Grandfather Matthew, and married him. Her brother married Nettie, Matthew's sister, so all of their children were double cousins.
There were always two things at each place setting on the table at her house on holidays. One was a hand-turned wooden nut cup made by Great Uncle John. They always held some nuts and a few pieces of candy. The other item was a glass of cocktail sauce with green onions, celery and seafood - either shrimp or crab. As a child, I never thought to ask where the tradition came from and I was only eleven or twelve when my grandmother died. My mother continued the tradition with both the nut cups and the cocktails and my sisters and I do the same.
Of course, over the years, we have been fortunate enough to have fresh Dungeness crab, but I can remember opening the little cans of shrimp or crab that you used to be able to buy...
I thought about Grandma today as I was mixing up crab cocktails to take to Sister Sherry's with us tomorrow. I just wish I knew the rest of the story.