Saturday, September 25, 2021


The Lost Provenance of My Father's Fishcakes

Codfish, potatoes, onions, salt and pepper.   Ground in the mill that was otherwise used only once a year or so to make corned-beef hash.  Fried no doubt in lard, and served most often with beans.  A torn-off piece of bread might have sopped up the soggy remains.

I am sure that my dad picked up the formula from his own dad, but beyond that nothing is known in specific.

It was a staple of the fishermen even at sea.  It's easy to understand why.  By the time the fishermen made it back to Gloucester or Lunenburg, their schooners were laden with roughly 800,000 pounds of fish, gutted and salted and/or on ice.  If a couple of hundred pounds were consumed by the crew within hours of having been caught, the success of the voyage would not have suffered by it, rather rendered more economical.

Once on dry land, did the able-bodied men swear off fishcakes and beans for a time in favor of pancakes and bacon?  If so, they would have been lured back just as they were lured back to the sea, as surely as a child to his mother's prized strawberry chiffon pie, and before very long.

This culinary extravagance part of the elaborate cultural web that tied us and ties us still to the good people of Nova Scotia.

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