Meat Loaf of the Sea / Crab Cake Bling

October 24, 2010

Here is the totally rewritten much shorter version of the earlier post on this subject that originally ran on the Baltimore Sun’s Dining@Large blog.


Crab Cake Bling

Something is awry with our humble meat loaf of the sea. On a 1977 Haussner’s menu a crab cake sandwich was $2.75, the same price as a sardine sandwich or a “hamburger sandwich.” Crab cakes have morphed from a homely local staple to an over-hyped, perplexing, lower-quality luxury good.

Crab cakes as big as soft balls? Absurd. Using expensive, less flavorful jumbo lump? Curious. Sneaking vapid pasteurized Asian crab into “Maryland” crab cakes? Preposterous. For years I have wondered why people desire this increasingly inferior and bombastic product. To understand demand for a less tasty, more expensive product, we must consider psychology in addition to economics.

The crab cake is becoming food bling – an object of conspicuous consumption. It is for some an exhibition of vulgar materialism, a lumpen-luxury good, an ironic status symbol. It is a gesture of silly wealth as American as a $12 Grey Goose dirty martini, $300 Nikes, or designer baby clothes. Flavor is now Flavor Flav.

Note: A longer version that includes historical data, quotes, photos, and an explanation of why Tony Danza is like a crab cake is posted here.


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