"Best Crab Cakes" rated by James Michener, author of "Chesapeake" ®
James Michener loved the Eastern Shore and came here to write his book "Chesapeake." He sailed the Chesapeake since his days in college. In the Talbot Free Library's Maryland room, and using other sources throughout the Eastern Shore, he researched the region in hundreds of books, newspapers, magazine articles and old letters. It was at the Robert Morris Inn's tavern that Michener came to write his original outline for "Chesapeake."
One of Michener's favorite foods of the Chesapeake Bay were crabcakes. As cited from The Philadelphia Inquirer on Aug. 30, 1992, Michener said "The Maryland crabcake is one of the great dishes of the world. It's incomparable." The Robert Morris Inn drew national attention when a letter from Michener rated their crabcakes the best of any commercial establishment on the Eastern Shore and was published in a number of major newspapers. "I didn't even know about it until I read it." Ken Gibson recalled. He certainly had the opportunity to have hundreds of crabcakes while he was here." Michener would also recall with warm sentiment the Gibsons and their Robert Morris Inn. The friendship has stretched over time and geography. "When I was in Alaska, way up north toward the Arctic Circle, (they) airmailed us six crabcakes," Michener said. " They had been frozen but came in at 9.3. And boy, we lived like kings. We invited in friends and had a Maryland crabfeast up there in the frozen north."
Ken Gibson said he couldn't divulge the specifics of the Robert Morris Inn crabcake-which is understandable- but he described the thinking that went into making his crabcake a quality product.
"We don't use filler," he said. "We try to present a crabcake that the majority is backfin or lump crabmeat, even though the traditional crabcake on the Eastern Shore used all the different parts of the crab."
"And even though we buy the best quality, we pick it to ensure there is no shell. The key is you don't want to be crunching down on shell. Most crabcakes are pan-fried or deep-fried. We came out with the baked crabcake. It also can be broiled. A lot of people are concerned about cholesterol and deep frying. I can tell you that there is no breading on our baked crabcake. With the deep-fried there is a light breading."
Asked the best way to bind the crabmeat together, Gibson paused, then laughed good-naturedly. "I can't get into that" he said. "That's where the seasoning comes in, and that's top secret." Gibson was also politely low-key about his relationship with Michener during the author's Eastern Shore Years. "He loved coming to our inn and enjoyed eating there," Gibson said. "We had people bringing his book here wanting to know where he sat and what he ate when he came in. We always respected his privacy and never wanted to commercialize our relationship. I knew him as a guest and treated him like a guest. (The publicity) only happened because he wrote the letter and rated our crabcake the highest of any commercial establishment."
James Michener died in 1997 at the age of 90.
Ken and Wendy Gibson retired from running the Robert Morris Inn in 2010. They are proprietors of the Sandaway Waterfront Lodging which was once known as the Robert Morris Lodge.
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