Preparing Crab Soup: A Southern Dish with French Connections

By Phin Upham

The French gave the world the bisque, and the recipe carried over to the Americas where it was popularized in the art of Creole cooking. Southern cities had a lot of French settlers in the early days of America, and their influences crept into cooking from places like South Carolina.

There were recipes from those early days for both he and she-crab soups, with each sex promising a very different flavor. Females were generally thought to be more tender than males, but they could carry eggs that might add a slight sour taste. One early she-crab recipe called for blue crab in sherry and vegetables, with crab eggs (called “roe”) to add a hint of bitterness. The result was tangy and sour, distinct from other crab soups on offer in places like Boston.

There were also limits on the kinds of crabs that could be used. Female crabs carrying matured eggs were not allowed to be used, but could be legally caught. In place of these impregnated females, chefs would use underdeveloped males with crumbled egg yolk to add the same consistency and flavor.

George Washington reportedly had a recipe for crab soup, with mentions of it occurring all throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s. There are no sources confirmed to have come from the president himself, and even more curious is that every recipe is different. Washington’s recipe was more like a stew than a soup, and certainly not like the bisque popularized in Southern states. Rumor has it that crab soup was Washington’s go-to on the road.

A warm bowl to get him through cold nights.

About the Author: Phin Uphamis an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or Twitter page.

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