Saturday, July 21, 2018

Fish, Four (Forlorn) Ways

Summer always reminds me of my grandpa standing quietly by the edge of his pond, holding a fishing pole and just waiting for a bite. I think his idea of a perfect summer afternoon may have been to fish until he caught enough bluegills for dinner, go home, clean them, and then play solitaire on the kitchen table until grandma had them ready for dinner.

Most cookbooks don't have recipes for bluegills, but that's okay because I'm not giving you recipes grandma would have made anyway. (She's of the strictly dredge-them-in-seasoned-cornmeal-and-shallow-fry-them school of thought. You don't need much or a recipe for that.)

No, today I'll start off with a floofy recipe from McCall's Fish 'n' Fowl Cookbook (1965) that grandma would have considered too much fussing around:

She would not have seen the point of topping fish with a puffy, eggy layer of sour cream and olives.

Since we always love to see an aspic, Going Wild in the Kitchen (Gertrude Parke, 1965) offers this jiggly, fishy wonder:

At least it's made with fish stock and unflavored gelatin rather than lemon Jell-O. (I'd recommend against wasting truffles on it, even if they are recommended as a variation.)

For those on restrictive diets, The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook (1959) offers this bland beauty:

I guess it's sort of a fluffed-up fish custard with Post Toasties on top so they could stay on-brand. Yum. Who wouldn't want to be associated with that?

Finally, from Weight Watchers International Cookbook (1977), the world's saddest "Poorboy."

And yes, it is just a broiled catfish fillet topped with slightly-seasoned tomato puree and pickle on a slice of white toast. I'm pretty sure actual Louisiana po'boys would laugh until all their condiments leaked out if they were told this is even a distant relative.

Probably best to consider these recipes simply catch and release.


  1. I wish there was a picture of the pike in aspic, especially arranged in a fancy mold. That would be a sight to behold! I think I would actually make the first recipe, only not with halibut, which is one of the few fish I actually like. The fussy topping would hopefully disguise the flavor of any less well-liked fish. The other recipes just don't seem worth the effort, and yes, that catfish poorboy is just sad!

    1. Of course, if you made it in a fish-shaped mold, olive eyes would be obligatory! They were de rigueur for fancy fish molds (and creepy enough that maybe nobody would even try the dish, so it wouldn't matter whether the flavor was good).

  2. Perhaps a better use of halibut: At least he wouldn't keep it in an aspic.

    1. I'm sure Eric appreciates it!

    2. Well, Eric the cat might like the halibut in aspic.

    3. True. I was speaking on behalf of Eric the halibut.