The 182-183 Street station of the D train that travelled from The Bronx to Manhattan was directly under the apartment building where I grew up. Going “downtown” was a big deal, not in terms of distance but in almost every other way. You didn’t throw on a pair of jeans and go downtown, you dressed for the occasion. Anita, my sister, would take me to Manhattan as part of her continuous effort to expose me to culture and the arts. She took me to all the wonderful museums, Central Park, the art galleries in The Village, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and everywhere else she could. We ate roasted chestnuts, Chinese and Italian food, and hot, square knishes from street vendors. We drank egg creams and hot chocolate. I still remember getting off the train in Manhattan and experiencing that childlike sense of awe and wonder. Walking up Fifth Avenue felt as if I had stepped over a threshold into another world. No delis or bakeries on the corners, no people sitting on the stoops, no noises from the kids playing stickball on the street. Instead there was elegance, beauty and The Plaza Hotel, straight out of the Eloïse books I adored.
The summer after I turned 16, I walked into Bergdorf Goodman and applied for a job. I don’t think I would have had the courage to do that were it not for my sister and all those trips to Fifth Avenue. To my amazement, I was hired, right then and there. Suddenly I found myself working just around the corner from The Plaza Hotel and the elegant Palm Court where they served things like Cobb Salad and Crab Cakes. That summer I had lunch there for the very first time.
I am meeting Anita in New York in October and I can’t wait. I hope we have the chance to stroll up Fifth Avenue so I can re-capture some of the wonder of being in New York with my big sister. We may even have tea at The Plaza.
Now that you can buy Kosher faux crab meat, I make crab cakes at home.
Faux Crab Cakes
1 lb. crab meat
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 green onion, thinly sliced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/ 2 cup bread crumbs
3 dashes Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup canola oil.
1 cup corn flake crumbs
In food processor, using the double blade, add crab meat and pulse a few times till shredded. Place in large bowl and add mayonnaise, green onion, eggs, breadcrumbs, tabasco and salt and pepper. Mix well and form about 12 cakes, making sure they are not too thick.
Place corn flake crumbs on a plate and coat each crab cake. Heat oil in cast iron pan till hot, fry crab cakes till golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Crab cakes are very delicate and fall apart easily so handle with care.
Perfect appetizer for a festive meal.