Saturday April 1 marked the opening day of Maryland’s blue crab season. Marylanders of all ages will drop their pots in the hope of putting fresh crab on their dinner table.
This holiest of days started a friendly argument here in the office over seafood seasonings.
One of our writers (who will remain nameless) thinks that Old Bay is – hands down – the best seafood spice around. They treat it like salt and put it on practically everything.
Me, on the other hand… I exclusively use J.O.. Sure, I’ll use Old Bay if I have to, but there’s no way I voluntarily use anything other than J.O. No. 1 Seafood Seasoning.
So we wanted to see what the people thought. Old Bay or J.O.?
But before the poll, a history…
In 1939, German Jewish immigrant Gustav Brunn arrived in Baltimore after fleeing Nazi Germany. Rumor is that he worked for McCormick for less than a week before he was fired. Some say he was fired for poor English, others say it was antisemitism. Either way, McCormick has no record of Brunn ever working there.
One year later, Brunn would go on to create arguably the most famous seafood seasonings in the world. Except, it wasn’t called Old Bay in the beginning. The seasoning’s original name was “Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning.” While technically accurate, it was certainly a mouthful to say. So, Brunn settled on “Old Bay” in honor of the Old Bay Line, a steamship that operated on the Chesapeake.
The J.O. Spice Company was established in 1945. James Ozzle “J.O.” Strigle and his wife Dot were bay area natives born and raised on the Chesapeake. The iconic J.O. Spice was a recipe that had been passed down by fishermen for generations. After watching fishermen eyeballing spice mixtures for years, the Strigles decided to make their own seafood seasoning.
Old Bay is most popular among consumers, easily beating out any competitor in the retail space. Some retailers won’t even carry J.O. No. 1 Brand Seafood Seasoning. However, if you’re buying carry out from a restaurant or crab house, your crab is most likely seasoned with J.O.. If you’re enjoying Route 11 chips or some other brand of crab flavored chips, you’re eating J.O..
The food and beverage industries have these sorts of rivalries: Heinz or Hunts, Pepsi or Coke, Coors or Budweiser.
But here in Maryland, especially along the water, the question is Old Bay or J.O..
So, which do you prefer? Take the poll below and then let us know which seasoning you prefer in the comments!