Thursday, April 14, 2016

Crab Cakes Three Ways

In Eastern Washington, crab is expensive and seasonal and usually reserved for special occasions, like Christmas and New Years. It's a meal you have to work for, cracking shells and picking the meat out. 
Kevin and Paige enjoying crab

With crab cakes, someone else has done that work, and you pay a premium for that as well. Crab cakes are a special treat for an  inlander like me., 

My first encounter with crab cakes came when Jim and I and our son Kevin spent Thanksgiving in Seattle. We had decided to avoid the family issues around who would host the dinner and who would be invited. Instead we booked a hotel near the waterfront. I made dinner reservations at Cutters Restaurant. It was a wonderful meal, no cooking on my part, and we all ordered exactly what we wanted. My philosophy of dining out is to have something I wouldn't make myself, so I had the crab cakes and they were excellent. 

We spent that weekend walking around Pike Street Market and the waterfront. It was a wonderful family time for the three of us. It's one of my favorite memories. 

The second crab cake episode came last September. It was the weekend of Jim's birthday, and Kevin and I had agreed to spend it together. I flew to Seattle, and we decided to go to a fancy seafood restaurant as our "revenge" against Jim's not being with us. It was a way of responding to our loss with irony and gentle anger -- processing our disbelief that he would never celebrate another birthday with us. We went to Etta's down on the water. Again, the crab cakes were excellent, and the bill would have made Jim's eyes pop. It was a bittersweet dinner, filled with shared memories and the silences of our sadness.

Last weekend, Kevin came home to help with some projects around the house. I had a Dungeness crab in the freezer, a leftover from a family crab feed. I had thawed it to be eaten that weekend, and Kevin decided we should make crab cakes. I found Paula Deen's recipe on the Internet and we set about making it happen. Cooking is something I used to do with Jim, and I haven't done much for myself since he's been gone. The chopping and cracking that Jim would have done was now done by Kevin. We shared memories again, but this time the ache was more nostalgia than acute pain. Crab cakes are actually fairly simple, and again these were excellent. We now have a new memory to share, one that reflects the new realities of my life. 

Three different memories that reflect three stages of my life:  the old, comfortable, and stable one that I thought I would have for many more years; the life after loss, shattered and confused, trying to understand this new reality; and a life in transition toward our new reality. The new life is still unfolding, but it has hope and love in it; it's wrapped in healing that is beginning to integrate past, present, and future.