Soft-Shell Crab Po’ Boy

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Now this is a sandwich: breaded and fried soft-shell crab, creole sauce and slaw slapped together between two slices of french bread. It’s the kind of sandwich that drips all over the plate in the most pleasurable way.

I’m in New Orleans for a conference. And I’ll admit the little of the French Quarter I’ve seen I find a little creepy. Garishly restored. But I had the chance to saunter into a sunny brunch place this afternoon right on Jackson Square. It’s called Stanley’s and (shudder) it is a little touristy too. It’s not a grocery counter, hidden deep within the quarter that only the locals know. Still, the marble-topped tables and the tall windows give it a something something. I opted for the po’ boy but Stanley’s is famous for their New Orleans take on the traditional eggs benedict.

The magic of the po’ boy is that it is quintessentially frontier food. It’s not about the nuance of the creole sauce or the style of breadcrumb, but rather an experience of a tried and tested arithmetic of ingredients. It’s about the soft-shell crab or oysters found in abundance on the coast that spill gloriously out of the sandwich. It’s about what can produce warmth and nourishment, when there isn’t time to labour for it.

Despite the garish splendor of the Disney quarter, this divine sandwich is exactly the kind of food I imagine frontier people (French, African, Spanish and European itinerants) sought out for comfort. Unembellished and perfectly over-the-top.

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