Crab Cakes for Lenny Bruce

Recently, I walked through the aisles of my local supermarket and was horrified when I stumbled upon the American section.  Imagine a few shelves packed with every manner of preservative and artificial color.  Everything from Fruity Pebbles to Nerds and Cheetos to Pop Tarts and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.  Basically, food for children.  Or stoned people.  I was so embarrassed I had to walk away.  I didn’t want other shoppers to think I was contemplating putting any of these items into my basket.  Then I saw the Boylan’s Black Cherry Soda and I couldn’t resist.  I also couldn’t help thinking about Lenny Bruce.

In the 1960s, Bruce neologized Jewish and Goyish as part of his act.  In it, he included many foods.  Black cherry soda being one of them and to me the most memorable.  Probably because as a kid it was my favorite drink to order when eating Reuben sandwiches at Greenblatt’s.

Kool-Aid is goyish. All Drake’s cakes are goyish. Pumpernickel is Jewish, and, as you know, white bread is very goyish. Instant potatoes–goyish. Black cherry soda’s very Jewish. Macaroons are very Jewish–very Jewish cake. Fruit salad is Jewish. Lime jello is goyish. Lime soda is very goyish.”  This is what played out in my head as I stood mouth agape looking at the black cherry soda of my youth.  I started to feel self-conscious with all the passersby witnessing my struggle.   

Eventually I put the indecision to an end and put the bottle of Boylan’s in my basket.  I headed for the check out and drank my soda with relish on the way home.  When it was finished, I hid the evidence of my crime against acceptable cuisine in some random recycling bin on the street.  I wanted no evidence to shame my English family.

Then the snob in me surfaced.  Sure I might have been purchasing crap from the American section of the grocery store but I was buying Jewish crap, not Goyish. Not that any English person would necessarily know the difference.  Nor any Goy.  But I knew and this made me feel superior.

When I came home, I had Lenny Bruce on the brain and that night his spirit found its way into my cooking.  Throughout his career, Bruce was frequently arrested under charges of obscenity.  And as obscene as he was charged for being, I topped that in the kitchen by making the most unkosher thing imaginable(not that I’m kosher).  Crab cakes with creme fraiche on top.

Lenny, I dedicate this obscenely good crab cake recipe to you and if you were around, I’d invite over for dinner so you wouldn’t have to be all alone.


1/2 a pound of cooked crab meat

2 medium potatoes, peeled, diced, boiled and steam dried

a bunch of dill, chopped

a bunch of chives, chopped

2 tablespoons of capers, chopped

1/2 teaspoon sumac

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

the zest and juice of a lemon

3 tablespoons creme fraiche

1/4 cup mayonnaise

vegetable oil for frying

salt & pepper

a plate of flour for dredging

a plate of one whisked egg

a plate of bread crumbs (I find 2 pieces of toast is all I need)



In a large bowl, mash the potatoes with half the herbs, spices, zest, and juice.  Then mix in the crab and incorporate well.

crab mixture

Form the mixture into cakes and refrigerate them about half an hour.  While they are chilling, combine the creme fraiche, mayonnaise, remaining herbs/spices/juice/zest for your sauce.  Set this aside.

crab cakes

Dredge the cakes in flour, then egg, then coat with breadcrumbs.


Place some oil in a large skillet.  Over medium heat, fry the cakes until golden on both sides.


Serve immediately topped with sauce.

crab cakes with sauce


8 thoughts on “Crab Cakes for Lenny Bruce

  1. yes, insanely good–I see that! Drooling over here.

    Can imagine your horror at the American section at the grocery. I get crazy mad whenever I shop at a mainstream grocer. All the processed cr@p ticks me off. This is what we’re supposed to buy to feed our families and selves? Preservatives? Fake colors? Excess sugars and even fake sugars? I wouldn’t say I’m a food snob (my love for Peeps and Valentine’s hearts kicks me out of that club), but I get pissed that food that will only make us fat and sick is what’s marketed most heavily. Though your soda pop sounds lovely! I have a fondness for vintage sodas 🙂

    • No, it didn’t instil a sense of national pride. To have your country’s culinary contributions boiled down to a few shelves of junk you could get any convenient store made me sad. If only, produce like Arkansas black apples or Maine lobster could be imported. That’d make me happy.

  2. Love the description of standing shellshocked in the aisle!

    Speaking of shocking shells, I definitely cannot be arsed with cooking crabs. What’s the deal with tinned crabmeat? Any good?


    Ps. My ‘secretly country’ childhood involved going crabbing. This meant wading around in knee deep water, with a torch and a scoop.

  3. Looks awesome. I was introduced to Lenny Bruce at the young age of about 10 or 11? When I watched Fosse’s Lenny with Dustin Hoffman. Totally inappropriate movie at the time for me, but I was fascinated, and it gripped me, even then. He was such a strong personality.

    • That’s so funny. I was about the same age. Not that I saw the Hoffman film, but I read a lot of Lenny Bruce. When I discovered him, it was mind blowing. I was obsessed with comedians and all things Yiddish/Jewish.

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