Every Marylander should know what Old Bay is! If you don't, prepare to be schooled.
Old Bay seasoning is a unique blend of herbs and spices (celery salt, paprika, black pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, and more!) that was developed by German immigrant Gustav Brunn in 1939. Marylanders first sampled Old Bay’s zesty flavor over 80 years ago, and from that moment on, seafood wasn’t really seafood without it.
Gustav and Bianca Brunn, courtesy of Jewish Museum of Maryland
So how did this unique, bold blend get its name? Believe it or not, it was originally called “Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning.” That name didn’t stick (easy to see why), but the taste sure did! A more memorable name was inspired by a steamship line (Old Bay Line) that traveled the Chesapeake between Maryland and Virginia.
A few things you probably didn't know about Old Bay:
- When fleeing to America at the start of World War II, one of the possessions Gustav refused to leave in Germany was his spice grinder. Thank goodness! It must have been a pretty special grinder.
Gustav's spice grinder, courtesy of Baltimore Museum of Industry
- Old Bay founder Gustav Brunn came to Baltimore after barely escaping Nazi Germany in 1938. He was briefly sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Ettersberg, but, according to his son Ralph, the family was able to bribe the Nazis into releasing him with 10,000 Marks. The Brunns immediately shipped off to the Charm City and launched Gustav’s seasoning one year later, as part of the Baltimore Spice Company.
Courtesy of Jewish Museum of Maryland
- The rights to Old Bay were purchased by McCormick & Co. in 1990.
- There is such a thing as an “Old Bay Ice cream sandwich,” an ingenious creation that features Old Bay-seasoned ice cream sandwiched between two crab cakes, made by the maniacs at The Iced Dreamery.
Old Bay ice cream sandwich, courtesy of The Iced Dreamery
- Old Bay has an actual mascot who shows up at baseball games and even Times Square.
And now that you're in the mood for Old Bay, here's a recipe for how you can make your own Old Bay seasoning at home!
What other Old Bay factoids did we miss? Have any you'd like to add? What's your favorite dish to pour Old Bay on? Tell us in the comments!