There are few things more gratifying than liberating crab meat from its hard shell with your hands. Kelly O

One month ago, late on a Friday night, I gave birth to my daughter. Soon after my girl exited my body, hunger found its way back in—and it did not discriminate. I lifted the lid on a tray of hospital food, exposing a dish whose every element I would normally avoid: dry chicken breast and limp green beans stir-fried in a syrupy orange sauce, undercooked white rice, and an "Asian" cabbage slaw. I ate it all—barely pausing for air—in about two minutes.

In these early weeks of breastfeeding my daughter, my appetite feels even more urgent. The closest I have ever felt to this sort of hunger before was after a multiday backpacking trip, when food is simply calories and sustenance, fuel for an empty tank, necessity. Three—or, if I'm being totally honest, seven or eight—times a day, I am startled at how I scarf food frantically. I feel like a wild beast—all canines and incisors, saliva, and clumsy paws driven by a single purpose.

In these moments my sense of self is lost. I am more animal than human. To my surprise, this brings its own distinct pleasure. I find myself fantasizing about food that requires no silverware and has no room for self-consciousness. I forgot how freeing food can be, how much joy comes from eating with abandon.

Perhaps my favorite meal after giving birth was a homemade french dip sandwich delivered to my door by one of my closest friends, another new mother who intuited my need for a pile of iron-rich red meat. That mound of roast beef and provolone cheese changed my whole world, and a few days later, I urgently needed to have another one. The braised beef brisket dip ($13) at Lowell's (1519 Pike Place, eatatlowells.com), while not quite as large and sloppy as I would like, is still a thing of beauty: thin slices of fatty brisket browned and crisped on the griddle, layered with melted mozzarella, sweet caramelized onions, and bracing horseradish mayo on a pillowy toasted roll. Cheese oozes out the sides with every bite, and it comes with a steaming cup of salty beef juice for dipping and dribbling down your chin.

The crispy sole fish ($13.95 per pound) at Ho Ho Seafood Restaurant (653 S Weller St, 382-9671) is a whole sole deep-fried and bathed in soy sauce and rice wine, with slivers of fresh ginger and green onion. Expertly fried, it marries two of life's best things: moist, delicate filets of fish and crunchy, oily bits that beg to be washed down with a few cold beers. Indeed the best, most flavorful part of this fish is the head: juicy, gelatinous cartilage to suck out; bones soft enough to crunch through and swallow; crispy, spongy eyeballs; and two tiny pockets of soft, wonderful cheek meat.

Eating corn on the cob is the vegetarian equivalent of eating meat off the bone—you must put your whole face into it for it to be satisfying, and if you're doing it right, you should end up with carnage strewn across your cheeks and some juice in your eyelashes and hair. Beacon Hill's Abarrotes El Oaxaqueño (4515 15th Ave S, 762-2218) roasts corn for elotes ($2.50 each) in a large outdoor oven year-round. Every cob is skewered with a wooden stick, then slathered with mayonnaise, powdered Parmesan cheese, and smoky chili powder: a hot, dreamy mess of sweet, salty, crunchy, and creamy. The elote is best eaten standing right there on the sidewalk, preferably around three o'clock when the nearby middle school lets out and the swarm of kids—fueled by Takis, Flamin' Hot Cheetos, and freedom—add their own wild energy to the scene.

While more staid than a street corner, you can still let loose at Taylor Shellfish on Capitol Hill (1521 Melrose Ave, tayloroysterbars.com). Order a whole Dungeness crab ($36), which comes precooked, chilled, and cracked for you, and a bottle of crisp white wine to accompany it. There are few things more gratifying and primal than liberating that fresh, briny, buttery meat from its hard shell with your hands—except doing it in the comfort of your house, in the comfort of sweatpants. Head to Mutual Fish (2335 Rainier Ave S, mutualfish.com) or one of the seafood stalls in Pike Place Market and bring home a couple of live crabs. Heat up a big pot of salty water, cover your dining room table in newspaper, and put out a big bowl for shells. Boil your crabs—seven minutes per pound—and dig in. No need for crab crackers; do as seals and sea lions do and use your teeth. recommended