We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
Grandma Cronise’s Crab Soup
The crab soup that Manny Anello thinks about when he wants to savor the good old days goes back to Hollins Street, the neighborhood of Mencken, St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church and the city market where his Irish grandmother bought live blue crabs.
Two indelible memories of Anello’s early 1950s childhood in southwest Baltimore are feeding sugar cubes to the ponies in neighborhood stables and watching his grandmother make a huge pot of crab soup.
“It’s been emblazoned on my brain since I was three,” said Anello, a veteran Arbutus attorney. He told family stories while enjoying a fine bowl of crab and corn chowder at Larry’s 1332, a new restaurant on the first floor of his Baltimore law office.
Larry Schwartz’s crab chowder conjured images of Anello’s grandmother, Josephine Martin Cronise, at the stove in the house at 1223 West Lombard Street near South Carey. There, the extended family lived together.
Grandma [1892-1977] was born in Baltimore, the daughter of a B&O railroad worker at the Mount Clare works. Anello’s mother Rose, born in 1916, was the second of Josephine’s four children.
Anello–born Salvatore Emanuel Anello III, a 1965 graduate of Mt. St. Joseph High School–lived in the Irish/Lithuanian/African-American neighborhood until he was 10. In those days, he was known as “Little Manny.”
Though he often walked to the market with his grandmother to buy the crabs and stood by as she pieced together her version of the Free State staple, he’s only made it twice in the last 30 years.
“It’s a big job, not easy to do. She made enough to fill a large crab pot,” said Anello. “Grandma’s secret was putting in two dozen shelled female crabs cleaned and broken in half.”
Authentic Maryland crab soup is always made using whole or half crabs instead of, or in addition to, crab meat.
You don’t see it too often these days and there is a generation who believes that if you don’t get half a crab in the bowl, you have not been served crab soup. Some folks just throw in the claws and unscrupulous establishments try to pass off vegetable soup spiced with Old Bay as the real thing.
An especially unique take using halved crabs is Frances Kitching’s “Jimmy Stew,” with broth the color of a tidewater inlet. It can be found in “Mrs. Kitching’s Smith Island Cook Book” [from Cornell Maritime Press.]
To be worthy of Grandma’s crab pot, said Anello: “All the vegetables had to be growing.”
By “growing,” he meant fresh, uncooked produce from the market or roadside stand: lima beans and peas that had to be taken home and hulled; string beans in need of snipping.
“The only vegetable from a can was Maryland white corn,” said Anello, taking his last spoonful of chowder on Sulphur Spring Road, his mind seven miles and 60 years down the road.
“I’m going to make it again,” he said. “It’s on the agenda.”
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
The outcome of Christie's recent auction of General Robert E. Lee's precious navel lint left even the most jaded “Lost Cause” memorabilia mavens gobsmacked and whistling Dixie. Not to mention afflicting many frustrated, heart-broken losing bidders with a temporary paralysis that baffled emergency physicians compared to the old-timey Southern Belle "vapors." This dream-crushing auction loss brutalized their very star and barred souls. The awestruck winner of General Lee’s coveted navel detritus, said that he did not consider himself to be the “owner” of the singular holy Rebel artifact; only its humble and devoted caretaker until the treasure is passed on to the next wors Read on →
Derrick Gunter & Radiator Charlie Knew A Good Thing When They Saw It. Robert Clark and I were on the road running down a story, a story about land, a farmhouse, and tomatoes, a story of war, old ways, and survivors of sorts. On a hot, humid July morning we abandoned I-20 for Longs Pond Road and after a back road or two arrived at a farmhouse near the community of Boiling Springs. Two big blackjack oaks stood out front. Out back, a handsome, clapboard smokehouse looked lonely, its fellow outbuildings long-fallen comrades. “The other buildings were too far gone. We t Read on →
At the beginning of 1997 I bought a new car. It was modest in price and style, but automatic and practical for a woman living in London. It was easy to park, small enough to fit in the narrowest spaces and comfortable to drive: a navy blue Daihatsu Charade that would not attract thieves or envy. I got it at a bargain price because one of my sons worked for a dealership. It was zippy in traffic, when traffic allowed. British roads are narrower and more congested than American ones, this small island being packed with a population of 63 million. Read on →
Long before the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments concerning The Affordable Health Care Act, many esteemed legal scholars were skeptical that such a hearing would ever come to pass. Indeed, Harvard law professor, Charles Fried, said if the High Court ever considered the legality of Obamacare, he would eat the kangaroo-skin hat that he had recently purchased in Australia. Now, I’m not holding my breath waiting for Mr. Fried to eat his hat; it’s not even certain that his promise was legally binding, even though the good professor made his hat-eating offer on Fox News. There is a better chance of Read on →