This is a story about crab cakes. The best crab cakes anywhere in the world, and what they mean.
The Discovery of Crab Cakes
Around 20 years ago, my rambling maternal grandparents decided to turn in their fifth wheel for a house in Fort Clark Springs, Texas. Fort Clark is a former USA Cavalry fort, about 1.5 hours outside of San Antonio.
In San Antonio, there is a temple of gastronomical delight. It is known as Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen.
My parents discovered Pappadeaux. Mere moments after Tech Support and I arrived in Texas for our first visit, they whisked us through the doors, saying, “You have GOT to try the crab cakes.”
What’s So Great About These Crab Cakes, Anyway?
Pappadeaux crab cakes are the perfect food. The kind of food that transcends mere sustenance. You put the first bite in your mouth, and without any prompting from you, your eyelids drop closed so you won’t be distracted by extraneous sensory input. And you find yourself making that “mmm” sound that you’ve previously reserved for very, VERY expensive chocolate. This is not fast food. This is food that demands reverence.
The crust is first. Crispy, crunchy, and buttery without being the slightest bit greasy. I have no idea how they do that.
You break through it with your fork and discover that, unlike most crab cakes that are 50% filler, this cake is 95% crab. In actual, recognizable chunks that have clearly been removed from fresh crab legs only minutes before they arrived on your plate.
Did I mention the sauce? Dear gods of tasty, the sauce. Cajun butter sauce, in which dozens of little crawfish have drowned. But don’t worry – they died happy.
Tech Support and I would share an order of two cakes, and we’d have to draw a trench down the middle of the plate to prevent sauce stealing. It’s that good.
A Tradition is Born… And Ends
Pappadeaux crab cakes became an instant Texas tradition. Canada is a long way from Texas, so we were only able to visit once every year or two. We looked forward to crab cakes almost as much as we looked forward to visiting my grandparents. I had dreams about these crab cakes. Actual dreams. And while gluten and dairy are NOT my friends, I joyously ate the crab cakes anyway. Every bite was worth it.
But Grandpa has passed away, and Grandma’s decided to return to her beloved Rocky Mountains. A couple weeks ago, I flew down to Texas to pick her up and escort her north.
I stopped for lunch at Pappadeaux on the way, and saw THIS:
All Is Not Lost… And Many Things Are Found
Pappadeaux San Antonio has always had exceptional service, so I had a chat with my waiter (Keith). I explained that I had flown all the way from Canada to eat this crab cake, and that it would likely be the very last Pappadeaux crab cake I ever got to eat, and could he please, please ask the kitchen if they could still make them the old way?
And they could. And they did.
I’d never been in Pappdeaux alone before, but as I sat there, savouring my very special crab cake, I realized that alone was exactly the opposite of how I felt. Every bite was a memory. Sitting on the porch with margaritas, waiting for a table. The time Tech Support and I met my parents there, but in the vastness of the dining room, didn’t realize we both had tables (for 20 minutes – we had no cell phones and serious worry about car accidents). The time Tech Support and I requested extra butter sauce, expecting a tiny little dish, and received a soup bowl full (and yes, we ate it all). Taking my grandma for crab cakes after visiting my Uncle Ted in the VA hospital. The first time Tech Support, my dad, and I ate crab cakes after my mom passed away.
I ate my crab cake, and my eyes filled with tears.
It was beautiful, and heartbreaking, and perfect.
And while it’s true that my family will never again eat crab cakes at Pappadeaux San Antonio, all is not lost.
Apparently there’s a Pappadeaux in Denver. 🙂
Have you ever eaten at Pappdeaux? What’s your favourite dish? What other foods evoke memories for you? I’d love to hear your stories.