- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 19, 2006

TYLERTON, Md. (AP) — The tranquility of Smith Island is what keeps some visitors coming back. For others, it’s the crab cakes from Mary Ada Marshall’s Drum Point Market.

“I’m pretty much a connoisseur of crab cakes, and you’ll find none better,” said Bobby Smith, a boat captain who grew up on the island and estimates that he has tried 300 types of them in his lifetime. “And the best part about it is, they are made with crab meat caught in the area, not that foreign mess you get anywhere else.”

Though a seafood allergy has kept Mrs. Marshall from enjoying her creations, they have prompted many to take the hour-long ferry ride from equally remote Crisfield just for lunch. The crab cakes also have gotten the island native a Christmas tour of the White House and a visit to the State Department. More importantly, they have helped keep afloat the small country store that is the lifeblood of this Eastern Shore island.

Mrs. Marshall began making the crab cakes about 12 years ago when her oldest son, Duke, bought the land and built the market with his brother Kevin. The island had lost its store the previous year and Duke, an insurance agent who lives in Crisfield, wanted a product to bring in visitors and islanders.

Though Mrs. Marshall could no longer eat seafood, she made batch after batch trying to re-create from memory an old family recipe. She used Duke and her husband, crabber Dwight Marshall, as taste-testers until she got it right.

“After a while, I got one they liked better than any, so that’s what we stuck with,” she told the Baltimore Sun.

Mrs. Marshall has revealed the recipe only to her son Kevin so the tradition won’t end when she dies. However, she said the secret is the local crab meat — a mix of back fin and claw meat.

Innkeeper LeRoy Friesen said tourists often ask about the crab cakes as soon as he greets them at the dock.

“They want me to rush through the orientation of the town so they can light out for the store and get there before it closes,” said Mr. Friesen, who runs Tylerton’s Inn of Silent Music.

Duke Marshall said he is encouraging his mother to start an Internet crab cake business, but she says she doesn’t have the time and doesn’t “do” computers. That hasn’t stopped him from giving out his e-mail address to anyone who wants to order one.

Mrs. Marshall said she will make her crab cakes every morning except Sundays as long as she is healthy and will never make the recipe public.

“It’s the good crab meat, and that’s the God’s truth,” she said. “It’s just like with a man. If you have a good man, you’ve got it made.”

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