If I require a snack here at the NF offices, I can head upstairs and grab something from the vending machines. They offer a variety of sodas, chips, candy, trail mix, cookies, cashews, crackers and gum from which to choose. It's a rich cornucopia of snacking goodness.
However, there is something we don't have. And that is a vending machine that dispenses live crab. I'd have to go to China for that.
According to The Atlantic magazine, between August and October, Chinese consumers enjoy snacking on the appetizingly named hairy crabs, which gained its moniker because of the hair-like tendrils that grow on their claws. But it used to be there was no way to satisfy a late-night crab craving after stores and restaurants closed.
That problem was solved in 2010, when the first live crab vending machine, owned by one Shi Tuanjie, chairman of the Gaochun Double Lake Crab Co., appeared in a subway station in Nanjing, China, as described in the Associated Press video below.
The Nanjing vending machine wasn't restocked in 2011; people apparently enjoyed the novelty of the machine, but weren't purchasing crab from it. But this year, a vending machine, stocked with live hairy crabs, debuted on a street in Hangzhou, the capital of China's Zhejiang province, on Sept. 11. It'll cost you $3.27 for the crab plus what The Atlantic article describes as the "appropriate accoutrements" of crab vinegar and two bags of ginger tea. The machine is restocked daily.
The live crab vending machine may turn out to be nothing more than a marketing novelty act. Still, I give kudos to its developers for creating an innovative way to satisfy customer demand for a popular seafood product.
I think it's safe to say vending machines have come a long way from the days of offering cellophane-wrapped sandwiches. I don't know whether Americans would purchase, say, blue crab or shrimp out of a vending machine. But I'm all for exploring product forms and new ways of delivering seafood to consumers.
Meanwhile, I'm headed to the vending machine upstairs. I may not be able to get my hands on any live crab there, but there is a package of Pop Tarts with my name on it.