The History of Crab Cakes

Thursday, January 17, 2013

In the late 19th century crabs were only enjoyed along the east and west coasts of the United States and parts of Canada. Crab dishes weren’t common food for people in the prairies or mid states as they were
not easily found or shipped to those regions. Although the crabs were easily accessed along the coastal towns they were still not a main attraction when cooking, as the meat was very hard to access. They were often found in the traps of shell fisherman but they were also very dangerous. The pinchers as the two front claws of the crab could pierce skin and often once attached were not easily detached. For this reason they were not as popular in any meals as shell fish was.

Once the art of handling a crab and outsmarting the attack of the front two claws was mastered, crabs became a more easily accessible meal. The meat was favored over other shell fish meat as crabs were abundant in the south and eastern coasts. The most common crab to be consumed was the blue crab.

Blue Crabs Are the Best

Blue crabs are most abundant in the estuary of Chesapeake Bay. Since blue crabs thrive in estuarial regions they became a main staple in the Maryland region for food. Blue crabs produce a copious amount of eggs each year which provides the area with an amazing amount of crab to use. Once the handling and catching of crabs were mastered, there was an abundance of crab recipes on the menus of many towns.

Crab cakes were first put in print in 1930 in the cook book by Crosby Gaige called the New York World’s Fair Cook Book. This was the first reference for the term “Crab Cake” but it was thought that crab cakes were a very common and popular food item in the southern states like Louisiana even before this reference was put into print.

Almost everyone in Maryland or more precisely Baltimore has a handed down, best and only recipe for Maryland or Baltimore style crab cakes. Although the preparation and specific ingredients differ the recipes are mostly all the same. The way that crab cakes are made is to combine smaller portions of minced meat with filler and a binding agent like bread or bread crumbs or crackers.

The filler in crab cakes was mostly due to economy at the time and the taste. Combining crab meat with bread reduces the strong taste of fish and therefore, would be widely accepted by more people. And since the blue crabs were so abundant in the Chesapeake regions they were the best option for people living off the land.

Now a days crab cakes are a favorite for many people not only in the Maryland or Louisiana regions but all over the world. With the easy of transport, crab can be delivered to many inland communities so crab cakes are on the menus of many restaurants. They can be served in small portions as an appetizer or lunch item or can be coupled with a side of salad or coleslaw to create a rich luxurious dinner.