>Crawfish, Crab Cakes and a Guest from China

>Palm Sunday weekend is a festive break between Great Lent and Holy Week for Orthodox Christians. Our festivities were heightened and brightened by a visit from our daughter, Beth, and a friend of hers from school. Beth and Xin are both graduate students in architecture at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. When a number of their classmates took a trip to Xin’s home town—Beijing, China—in March, Xin played hostess much of the time. Beth wanted to return the favor, so she brought Xin home and showed her Memphis. This is Xin. We fell in love with her this weekend, and hope she’ll visit again.

I hadn’t seen Beth since Christmas, so it was great being with her, and she brought me this beautiful hand-sewn wallet from Hong Kong (left) and had lots of stories to share about her trip there.

I wanted to greet Beth and Xin with some good Southern treats, but we’re fasting from meat and dairy until Pascha, so I decided to boil peanuts. If you haven’t had them, they’are awesome. You start with RAW peanuts (not roasted) and lots of salt. Cover the peanuts with water. For two large bags, I probably added 1/4 cup or more of salt. Boil for 3-4 hours. Cool and enjoy! My mother made these often when I was growing up. The shells get soft and salty and taste good to suck on after you eat the peanut out. Refrigerate uneaten peanutes for finishing up later.
My husband and I took the girls to our favorite seafood restaurant in Memphis, Blue Fish in the Cooper Young neighborhood on Friday night. The owners used to live in Destin, Florida, but moved to Memphis to try to have more of a year-round, rather than seasonal business. They carry 8-10 different “fresh catch” fish each night, each of which can be prepared about a dozen different ways. Good stuff. We started our Cooper Young evening at the outdoor patio at Celtic Crossing for a drink, and then walked to the restaurant, taking in the shops and atmosphere along the way. Xin had her first red fish and loved it. Hubby had his favorite soft shell crab. Beth had red snapper and I had Destin scamp.

On Saturday Beth took Xin to Graceland. It was actually Beth’s first visit. I’ve only been once… in order to take my in-laws when they wanted to go a few years ago. It’s one of those things we often take for granted—our hometown stars. Xin loved everything about it, from the house to the plane to the museums and gift shop.

Saturday afternoon the weather was perfect for the 14th Annual Crawfish Festival at Overton Square. Gumbo, red beans and rice, crawfish, beer and margaritas were the order of the day. I love that the festival benefitted the Alzheimer’s Association, on top of being a great time for the community to come together on a beautiful spring afternoon in midtown Memphis!

It was fun to run into Jon Autrey. . .

and Tim Elliott.

And to enjoy the music of Memphis musician Amy Lavere.

Beth and Xin dropped me off home and headed downtown for the evening, which included ribs at the Rendezvous, shopping at A. Schwab’s, and cruising Beale Street.
Sunday morning Beth and Xin caught the Peabody Ducks arriving in the lobby for the day, and then met up with me and hubby for lunch at Tug’s Grill at Harbor Town. Tug’s Easter Brunch included crab cakes, which were delicious. I had been wanting some since reading about Pat Conroy’s crab cakes (right) in “The Romance of Food,” by his wife, Cassandra King, in AARP Magazine. Pat and Cassandra are two of my favorite writers, and it’s fun to see their romantic side. The recipe is in the article, but I’m copying and pasting it here for convenience. Can’t wait to try it! Okay, no more about food this week, as we enter Holy Week with tonight’s first of three Bridegroom Orthros services at St. John Orthodox Church. A brief explanation of the services tonight, Monday night and Tuesday night follows. (It’s from this link.) My “favorite” is Tuesday night’s service, which includes the “Hymn of Kassiane.” Read all about it here:

Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday: The first thing that must be said about these services, and most of the other services of Holy Week, is that these services are “sung” in anticipation. Each service is rotated ahead 12 hours. The evening service, therefore, is actually the service of the next morning, while the morning services of Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday are actually the services of the coming evening.
Understanding that, let’s turn to the Services of Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (celebrated Palm Sunday , Monday and Tuesday evening). The services of these days are known as the Bridegroom or Nymphios Orthros Services. At the first service of Palm Sunday evening, the priest carries the icon of Christ the Bridegroom in procession, and we sings the “hymn of the bridegroom.” We behold Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church, bearing the marks of His suffering, yet preparing a marriage Feast for us in God’s Kingdom.


Each of these Bridegroom Orthros services has a particular theme. On Holy Monday, the Blessed Joseph, the son of Jacob the Patriarch, is commemorated. Joseph is often seen as a Type of Christ. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, thrown into a pit and sold into slavery by them. In the same way, our Lord was rejected, betrayed by His own, and sold into the slavery of death. The Gospel reading for the day is The Barren Fig Tree, which Christ cursed and withered because it bore no fruit. The fig tree is a parable of those who have heard God’s word, but who fail to bear the fruit of obedience. Originally the withering of the fig tree was a testimony against those Jews who rejected God’s word and His Messiah. However, it is also a warning to all people, in all times, of the importance of not only hearing the God’s word, but putting it into action.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins is read on Holy Tuesday. It tells the story of the five virgins who filled their lamps in preparation for receiving the bridegroom while the other five allowed their lamps to go out and hence were shut out of the marriage feast. This parable is a warning that we must always be prepared to receive our Lord when He comes again. The theme of the day is reinforced by the expostelarion hymn we sing: “I see Thy Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Savior, but have no wedding garment that I may enter. O Giver of Light, enlighten the vesture of my soul, and save me.”
The theme of Holy Wednesday is repentance and forgiveness. We remember the sinful woman, Kassiane, who anointed our Lord in anticipation of His death. Her repentance and love of Christ is the theme of the wonderful “Hymn of Kassiane” which is chanted on this night, reminding us one more time, before “it is too late,” that we too may be forgiven if we repent.

So, here we go… six days of fasting and prayer leading up to Holy Pascha. But first, as promised earlier, the crab cake recipe:

Pat Conroy’s Crab Cakes

Serves 2)
· 1 pound lump crabmeat
· 1 lemon, divided
· Salt and pepper
· 1 large egg white
· Flour
· 5 tablespoons butter
· 2 handfuls baby arugula or butter lettuce
· Extra-virgin olive oil (citrus, if available)
· Champagne vinegar, to taste
· 2 tablespoons capers
1. Put crabmeat in a bowl; pick over for shells. Squeeze 1 wedge of lemon over crab; salt and pepper lightly. 2. In a small dish, beat egg white until foamy. Pour over crab and mix in. 3. Using as little flour as possible (1 to 2 tablespoons), form mixture into four crab cakes. 4. Melt 2 to 3 tablespoons butter in a flat, heavy skillet, until sizzling and just beginning to brown. Carefully add crab cakes. Brown on 1 side until crispy; turn carefully and brown the other side, then remove to a platter. 5. While cakes are browning, put arugula (or butter lettuce) in a bowl. Drizzle leaves with extra-virgin olive oil and toss until coated, then sprinkle lightly with champagne vinegar to taste, and toss. 6. To make a sauce, add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the hot skillet, stirring to dislodge any crab bits still stuck to the skillet. When butter begins to brown, squeeze in juice of 1/2 lemon and turn off the heat. Throw in capers and toss. 7. Divide arugula among 2 plates, top with 2 crab cakes each, pour sauce over all, and serve.
Nutrients per serving (2 cakes) 485 calories, 53g protein, 11g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 27g fat, 205mg cholesterol, 1,897mg sodium

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