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Lou & Lucy’s Leftovers: When making crab cakes, it’s Maine crab meat or bust

Do you ever get it in your head what you want to cook for a dinner party and find it unavailable? That happened to me on New Year’s Eve.

I was planning on making my traditional meal of crab cakes and a pasta dish. But it was almost not meant to be.

I admit, I am fussy when I make crab cakes. The crab must be fresh and from Maine. There is no substitute. Fresh Maine crab meat is not always easy to come by. I usually call ahead to order it. I didn’t start calling until Saturday. The timing of New Year’s Eve made it tricky.

The first store I called had a small amount, but would be closed Sunday and Monday. I kept trying. I called a Hadley store. The conversation went like this:

Store: “Yes, we have fresh Maine crab meat. It just came in.”

Me: “Can you put aside 4 6-ounce containers?”

Store: “Sure can.”

Me: “Great. I’ll pick it up Sunday.”

Store: “What’s your name.”

Me: “Lucy Pickett. See you Sunday. Thank you.”

On Sunday I zipped over to Hadley.

Me: “Hi, I am here to pick up an order of Maine crab meat for Lucy.”

Store (after a trip to the walk-in fridge): “Sorry we don’t have anything for you back there.”

Me: “Whaaat ???? But I called ... He said he would put it aside ... How could that happen?”

I just stood there staring at them in disbelief. They went and looked again. Still, no order. I continued to stare in disbelief.

I think the fishmonger started to get nervous I was going to do something weird. She offered to comp me some fancy canned crab meat from Indonesia. I thought about it for a moment and decided to take the 3 8-ounce containers, priced at $19.99 each, for free. I would be a fool not to, right?

When I got it home I tasted it I thought, “Wow that’s very expensive CANNED crab meat.” I would not make my crab cakes — the ones I had been making every New Year’s Eve for 20 years — from canned crab meat. The Indonesian stuff just did not taste right; I don’t care how expensive it was. What to do?

Almost ready to give up, on Monday (yes, New Year’s Eve, the day of diner party) my friend and party cohort, Nancy, who works in Brattleboro, called a fish store in Vermont. They had the Maine crab meat, but not enough. They recommended calling Foster’s in Greenfield. Score! They had plenty. I picked it up and made my crab cakes out of fresh, Maine crab meat and they were delicious. The tradition lives on.

Moral to the story: Be careful, once you make crab cakes out of fresh, Maine crab meat you are spoiled for life.

­– Lucy

Actually, the real moral to your story is: I ended up with 2 containers of your “very expensive canned” crab meat thanks to your generosity. Made crab salad and scooped some into halved avocados on New Year’s Day. Company raved. Thanks for being so picky!

– Lou

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