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.
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.
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.