The World's Largest Fishcake.
Sort of leaves a bad taste in the mouth, doesn't it?
"Hey, we don't make fish cakes. We make crab cakes. But I'll take it for now until I can convince them to call it a crab cake," says Jim Cupp, regional sales manager for Handy International and the chief architect of the world's largest crab cake.
After more than a year of waiting, Handy International, the Crisfield seafood-processing company, is the proud co-owner of a Guinness World Records' certificate that finally designates a Maryland-Delaware culinary creation to be the largest crab - eh, fish - cake in the history of such endeavors. Stop the presses and pass the Old Bay.
And it's about time, by the way. The honor took a lot longer to make than the crab cake itself. But genius often has to wait to take its rightful place among, in this case, the likes of the world's largest omelette, slab of fudge, stir-fry and tiramisu.
The story of the Great Crab Cake begins in October 2006 at the Diamond State BBQ Championship held at the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware. Cooked up by Dover Downs, the idea was to make the world's largest crab cake because, well, it had never been done and it was National Seafood Week, after all. The communal meal would call for the usual ingredients, an unusual cooking apparatus and a statewide appetite.
Cupp, a man on a promotional mission, went to work on the project. Days before the Oct. 21 event at Dover Downs, Cupp oversaw two, 235-pound crab cake tests conducted at Handy's Crisfield plant. The colossal cakes passed the taste test.
It was go time. For the Dover Downs event, Cupp built a $10,000, three-foot rotisserie pan to hold the recipe, which required 152 pounds of crab- meat plus breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, onions and pasteurized eggs. Cupp joined forces with Dover's hotel chef, Fred Bohn, and together they cooked the 235-pound crab cake over an open flame for a mere nine hours (originally 236 pounds, the crab cake lost a pound in cooking shrinkage).
In order to follow Guinness' rules for authenticity, the event was videotaped, and Delaware's health department was on hand to certify cleanliness and edibility.
The flattened disk - resembling more of a mutant quiche - finally emerged from what could be described as an unappetizing industrial pan. Would the crab cake be dry as toast? Would it besmirch the proud name of crab cakes everywhere?
Nah. The crab cake was roundly admired before it was carved up into 600 sandwiches. Which were eaten. Completely.
"You would expect it to be dry, but it was very moist. We were blown away by the taste," says George Fiorile, vice president and general manager of hotel operations. Thus, the man had early first dibs.
"The flavor profile was terrific."
"That's what we use in the industry."
In other words, it was real good eating.
The memory of a truly jumbo crab cake needed to be savored. So, armed with videotape evidence and official verification, Cupp turned to the only player that matters when it comes to world records.
But, as it turned out, London-based Guinness World Records didn't have a category for crab cakes. (What do Brits know about Maryland blue crabs anyway?) But the company did have a "fish cake" category. As unsavory as that sounded to Cupp or any honorable Marylander, Cupp pursued the Guinness record.
He nagged and e-mailed, until last week the powers that are Guinness formally (sort of) recognized the Mid-Atlantic specialty. The embossed certificate hanging in his office reads, in part: "The largest fishcake weighed 106.59 kilograms (235 pounds) and was made by Handy International in conjunction with Dover Downs Hotel & Casino on Oct. 21, 2006." Not exactly the Nobel Peace Prize, but still pretty cool - except for those words again: fish cake.
"I think they took the path of least resistance and lumped the crab cake up into the fish category," Cupp said. If it was any consolation (and it is), the Handy-Dover crab cake beat a reported existing fish cake record of 55 pounds.
Meanwhile at Dover Downs, the other proud parents also hung up their sealed and embossed Guinness certificate for the world's largest fish cake last week.
"Hey, whatever gets us in the book," says Dover spokeswoman Lisa Butler.
Not so fast.
Cupp says the certificate does not say anything about the record going into one of the famous annual Guinness books. It just means they have the record; it just means, for now, they have two pieces of paper hanging in offices. And that will not do. Cupp plans to research what it will take to have the record in a Guinness book.
"I'm working on that," he says.