Photo Credit: Fifteen Spatulas
In the heat of springtime, there is perhaps no better time of year to enjoy fresh crab cakes than right now (preferably with a nice view of the water). I had the pleasure of doing this very activity when my parents came to visit me from Seattle about three weeks ago to watch me present at the Mathias Research Conference here in DC. On April 2, I took my good friends and some of my former roommates Karriea, Alex, and Nick to Tony and Joe’s Seafood Place overlooking the Georgetown Waterfront, and we had a blast discussing our memories from college, such as living together, taking a trip to New York, and talking about how we all first met. In fact, we were so impressed by the crab cakes that I ordered that we even attempted to make my mom’s delicious crab cakes ourselves (alas, it did not work out so well), but we had a wonderful evening watching Hot Fuzz (perhaps one of the wittiest comedies I’ve ever seen) and playing Cards Against Humanity. Crab cakes, as a dish, are that much more special to me because I will always have this amazing memory eating them surrounded by my family and my good friends/incredible former roommates. Since I am about to graduate in a matter of weeks, I’m feeling so many different emotions, especially about my friends possibly moving away, but in the end, I’m so grateful that I got to share so many special moments with them. Happy Earth Day and please enjoy reading about this delectable dish!
Photo Credit: Chris Shott
Crab Cakes and History
Crab cakes are considered a popular traditional specialty, especially within the Maryland and Chesapeake Bay area. According to The Crabcake Guy and Lynne Olver, food historians tell us the practice of making minced meat cakes/patties (seafood/landfood) is ancient. Minces mixed with bread/spices/fillers came about for two reasons: taste and economy. Primary evidence suggests recipes for crab-cake types dishes were introduced to the colonies by English settlers, such as rissoles and croquettes.
A survey of historic American cookbooks confirms crab recipes were popular from colonial days forward. In the 19th century crab recipes proliferated. Many of these combined bread crumbs and spices; some were fried. These recipes are variously called “to stew crabs,” “to fry crabs,” “to dress crab,” “crab patties” or “crab croquettes.” Sometimes they stand alone, others they are noted as possible variations under similar fish/shellfish recipes. The phrase “crab cake” appears to be a 20th century appellation.
“Crab cake. A sauteed or fried patty of crabmeat. The term dates in print to 1930 in Crosby Gaige’s New York World’s Fair Cook Book, where they are called “Baltimore crab cakes,” suggesting they have long been known in the South. A “crabburger” is a crab cake eaten on a hamburger bun.”
-Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 103)
Olver, Lynne. “Food Timeline FAQs: Fish and Shellfish.” Food Timeline. 2004. Web. 22 April 2016.
“The History of Crab Cakes.” The Crabcake Guy. The Crabcake Guy, 25 July 2007. Web. 22 April 2016.
Crab Cakes and Politics
In honor of earth day, it is important that we discuss the importance of sustainable seafood for the planet. You may be wondering what sustainable fish actually is. Simply defined, sustainable seafood is “caught or farmed using methods that prioritizes the long-term life of the species as well as the well-being of the oceans. The goal of sustainability is to balance the needs of today without negatively affecting future generations, while also protecting the interests of those who work in the seafood and fishing industries” (Fishmonger). Remember to use sustainable crab for the recipe below! Let’s learn a little bit more about sustainability and the goals of the Earth Day Network campaigns from the Earth Day Network website:
Earth Day Network’s mission is to broaden and diversify the environmental movement worldwide and to mobilize it as the most effective vehicle to build a healthy, sustainable environment, address climate change, and protect the Earth for future generations.
Growing out of the first Earth Day, Earth Day Network is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 50,000 partners in 196 countries to build environmental democracy. They work through a combination of education, public policy, and consumer campaigns.
One of the major campaigns that Earth Day Network is currently working on is the Billion Acts of Green ® MobilizeU Campaign For Higher Education. This campaign encourages students, administrators, and citizens who are passionate about the environment to educate someone about the environment or reduce an individual or school’s carbon footprint.
Photo Credit: Earth Day Network
In order to do this, Earth Day Network suggests taking one of the following actions:
- Host a Climate Forum!
- Start a Divestment campaign on your campus!
- Plan a tree planting for your campus!
- Lead a recycling drive to collect as much plastic, metal, and glass as possible!
- Pick up trash at a local park or beach!
- Set up a screening of an environmentally-themed movie.
To participate in social media activism, use the following hashtags:
- #ED2016 #ClimateForum
The theme of Earth Day 2016 is Trees for the Earth. Trees for the Earth is our campaign to plant 7.8 Billion trees around the world, one for every person the planet, by the Earth Day’s 50th anniversary in 2020.
Remember to take that one step and do something to save the planet today!
Also, check out some pics and videos from last year’s Global Citizen Earth Day concert on the National Mall that I had the amazing opportunity to attend with a few of my sorority sisters! Headliners included Train, Mary J. Blige, No Doubt, My Morning Jacket, Usher, and, my favorite band since I was 10, Fall Out Boy!
Photo Credits: Meagan Nelson
Harry Potter Actress Bonnie Wright speaks out about poverty and Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump performs at Earth Day concert
“About Us.” Earth Day Network. Earth Day Network, N.D. Web. 22 April 2016.
Fishmonger. “Chef’s Fresh Fish.” Chef’s Fresh Fish, 15 April 2015. Web. 22 April 2016.
“MobilizeU For Higher Education.” Earth Day Network. Earth Day Network, N.D. Web. 22 April 2016.
Crab Cakes and Pop Culture
The movie “Wedding Crashers” is a mid-2000’s classic beloved for not only its spot-on humor, but also for its famous line, “Crab cakes and football…that’s what Maryland does!” (The phrase even has its own dedicated Facebook fan page, though depending on where people live, many have expressed their opinions about altering the slogan). Indeed, when the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2013, many Marylanders online mention celebrating the win by chanting these unforgettable words.
“Wedding Crashers” was also one of the first films do bring attention to crab cakes as a dish, a Maryland/mid-atlantic specialty, and even a popular item on wedding menus. Check out the crab cake pops below that have made their way onto guest’s plates at several weddings!
Speaking of Maryland and weddings, I’d like to make a shout out to my friend, Rebekah, in regards to her engagement! Many congratulations to you both! 🙂 Additionally, this Monday, I will be visiting my friend from home, Iris, who lives in Chicago. We will be headed to Baltimore for her job interview (Good luck!), and we can’t wait to try out the crab cakes and other delicious foods that Maryland has to offer. Happy Earth Day everyone, and hope you enjoyed reading about one of my favorite foods!
AtomicTV. “Crab Cakes and Football, That’s What Maryland DOES!” Baltimore or Less. WordPress, 24 January 2013. Web. 22 April 2016.
KollegeGraduit. “Crabcakes & Football.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 3 August 2007. Web. 22 April 2016.
Jumbo Lump Crab Cake Pops
Photo Credit: Savory Simple
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Serves approximately 21 bites
16 ounce container fresh jumbo lump crab meat
1 large egg ½ cup regular mayonnaise
½ cup Italian bread crumbs
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
⅛ teaspoon fines herbs
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
optional: dijon mustard for serving
- Set the oven to broil and place the oven rack near the top.
- In a medium sized bowl, gently pick through the crab meat to remove any shells. Try not to break up the lumps.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg and then whisk in the mayonnaise until well combined.
- Add the breadcrumbs, Old Bay, fines herbs, garlic powder, mustard and Worcestershire sauce, stirring until well combined.
- A little bit at a time, gently fold the wet mixture into the crab meat. This part takes some patience because you really want to avoid breaking up the lump meat.
- Using a kitchen scale, weigh out 1 ounce bites and gently shape them with your hands.
- Lightly grease the bottom of a baking sheet (baking spray works well) and place the crab cake bites on the sheet.
- Place a small piece of butter on top of each crab cake bite.
- Broil for 7-10 minutes, keeping a close eye to make sure they don’t burn. Allow them to cook on one side the entire time (the lack of filler makes them very delicate). If the tops seem like they’re going to burn, lower the oven rack or switch the broiler to a lower setting. You’re not cooking the meat but you want the filling to solidify and the egg to cook through.
- When the tops are golden brown, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool. Place a toothpick in each crab cake bite before serving.
“Jumbo Lump Crab Cake Bites.” Savory Simple. Savory Simple, 25 November 2013. Web. 22 April 2016.
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