I am thinking today of a favorite passage of mine from "Cross Creek" by Marjory Kinnan Rawlings. When I read this I can't help but think of the freshness of the ingredients. Fresh butter and cream from her jersey cow (Dora), fresh caught crabs, homemade bread for the toast points. She describes in detail the process of catching the crabs in a boat on a dark night.
My friend has her mother's recipe for a crab newburg-like dish. She uses imitation crab and cream cheese. She says the sherry is the indespensible ingredient. It is very good but can anyone ever capture the flavor Marjory describes in this rustic dish made in the Florida back woods? Oh, I would love to sit at her table and dive into this crab newburg.
Here is a link to Cross Creek State Park. I have always wanted to visit. I love the pictures.
This passage also brings to mind a camping trip we took with friends on a small island in the St. Johns River when my daughter was small. We spent one day tubing down an icy cold creek and visiting an old plantation-style house.
Here is the passage:
"In an iron skillet over a low fire I place a certain amount of Dora's butter. As it melts, I stir in the flaked crab meat, lightly, tenderly. The flakes must not become disintegrated; they must not brown. I add lemon juice, possibly a tablespoonful for each cup of crab meat. I add salt and pepper frugally, paprika more generously, and a dash of powdered clove so temporal that the flavor in the finished Newburg is only as though the mixture had been whisked through a spice grove. I add Dora's golden cream. I do not know the exact quantity. It must be generous, but the delicate crab meat must never become deluged with any other element. The mixture bubbles for a few moments. I stir in dry sherry, the quantity again inestimable. Something must be left to genius. I stir in well beaten eggs, perhaps an egg, perhaps two, for every cup of flakes. The mixture must now no more than be turned over on itself and removed in a great sweep from the fire. I stir in as tablespoonful, or two, of the finest brandy, and turn the Newburg into a piping hot covered serving dish. I serve it on toast points and garnish superfluously with parsley, and a Chablis or white Rhine wine is recommended as an accompaniment. Angels sing softly in the distance.
We do not desecrate the dish by serving any other, neither salad nor dessert. We just eat crab Newburg. My friends rise from the table, wring my hand with deep feeling, and slip quietly and reverently away. I sit alone and weep for the misery of a world that does not have blue crabs and a Jersey cow."