Dan and I are just crazy about Maryland crabcakes. And it turns out, not surprisingly, that the best place to get Maryland crabcakes is, well, Maryland. And the best place in Maryland that we’ve found so far is the G&M Restaurant in Linthicum, conveniently located just a mile or so from BWI airport.
I used to bring crabcakes home all the time before security cracked down on bringing liquids in carry-on luggage. Then it got more complicated. With the ice packs, I’d have to check a bag, and I never want to do that, not if I can avoid it. Sure it’s the money (the crabcakes are expensive enough!), but it’s also the extra time at the airport waiting for the checked bag. And what if the bag damaged? What if it’s lost?
So, we were out of crabcakes and I decided it was time to find out just exactly what the TSA’s rule is regarding a material that is a liquid when at room temperature but is frozen solid when being carried through security. There is nothing about this on their Web site, so I wrote to them and asked. A response came promptly. Here is what they said:
“TSA permits regular ice, frozen gel packs, and dry ice in checked and carry-on baggage. Frozen items are allowed so long as they are solid and in a “frozen state” when presented for screening. If frozen items are partially melted or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, the ice/liquid container must meet 3-1-1 requirements.”
So in April I froze up some ice packs and prepared for a trip to Maryland.
“Better bring a copy of that email with you,” Dan advised. And so I did.
Sure enough. When I went through security, they saw the ice packs in my bag. "It's ice packs," I kept explaining. "Frozen ice packs." They ignored me. They pulled my bag out for detailed searching. The person checking my suitcase was a supervisor. “Are you aware of TSA regulations regarding liquids?”
“Yes sir.” I whisked the TSA email out of my pack. “They say it’s okay to carry on a frozen ice pack”
He read it carefully, frowning. Finally he figured out what I had done wrong. “You have to declare this kind of thing so that we can check it. I checked it. It’s okay. You want to pack up your things?”
And so I was able to carry my ice packs aboard and to bring my crabcakes home. Yesterday I went through the exercise again. I packed three ice packs, two thicker, newer ones, and an older one that was nice and thin, good for slipping into the suitcase. All solidly frozen. I put them in ziplock bags and “declared” them separately as I’d been instructed. And it turned out that the older ice pack has some air in it, so that even frozen it’s just a little squishy, not perfectly solid.
“This one’s not frozen,” the security agent said. “It’s squishy. What’s it for?”
“I’m going to be bringing back crabcakes. Also frozen.”
“This one’s not frozen.”
“Yes it is. I just took it out of the freezer half an hour ago.”
“It’s supposed to be only for medication.”
“That’s not true. I wrote to the TSA about this and I have an email from them that puts it in the category of foodstuffs. They said I could bring it as long as it’s frozen.”
“This one’s not frozen. It’s squishy.”
“It’s frozen. Really it is. There’s just some air in it. I took it out of the freezer less than an hour ago. Been in there for a week.”
“Well, I’ll let you on with it this time, but if it’s squishy it’s not frozen.”
I am effusively grateful. “Oh, thank you so much.”
Gaahh! These frozen ice packs just don’t mix well with airport security contractors. I wonder what adventure awaits me on the way home.