Food & Drink

Get over the jumbo lumps: How it all started

When did Baltimore diners start insisting on jumbo lump crab meat? Menus advertise jumbo lump crab meat in omelets, dips and soups. This not only makes no culinary sense, the lopsided demand it's created for jumbo lump crabmeat has taken a toll on the region's already pinched crab-processing industry.

Where did the love of jumbo lump come from.

The story in today's Taste section does not include some illuminating comments from Nancy Faidley Devine, the matriarch of Lexington Market's famed Faidley seafood.

"I believe I'm the culprit,' Devine told me. It was the jumbo lump crab cake that Devine developed in 1987 that started the jumbo lump ball rolling. "I made the six the first day, and 12 the next."

Not long after, the praises of Faidley's jumbo lump crab cake were being sung by GQ magazine, the New York Times and other national media.

T For the lump effect, restaurants began turning increasingly to imported crab meat, almost all of which has paler flavor than the meat from the Chesapeake crab.

The jumbo lump crab cake at Faidley remains the thing of beauty it always was, and remains delicious. But its success drove imitators to make their own jumbo lump crab cakes, some of which were worth knowing about, others which weren't.

Faidley makes its crab cakes with domestic crab meat, fresh during the season, pasteurized out of season. For those who shun pasteurized crab meat, Devine says the difference between it and fresh is negligible compared to the difference between Chesapeake and imported crabmeat.

"It's a very good product," Devine says of pasteurized crab meat. She explained that processors wait until the end of the season, when crabs have fattened up, to make their pasteurized product.