“Canned (Shell)Fish 3

By now you probably have realized that all the canned seafood I ate as a child came to us from Bumble Bee. I actually hadn’t noticed that myself until I added this third image to write about canned shrimp. Sure enough, there is that little cheerful bee on the label.

I wrote last year about my mother’s insistence that I learn how to make white sauce, one of the three skills she thought every girl should master before marriage. The other two, by the way, were how to iron a man’s shirt and how to make turkey gravy. I taught my own daughters none of these things. Anyway, white sauce was the key addition to the drained canned shrimp. Mixed with cooked spaghetti noodles they became “shrimp wiggle.” I liked this dish more than creamed tuna, but shrimp were more expensive than tuna so were served less often.

Needless to say I had no idea what a real shrimp looked like for many years. The only other time I had the shellfish was at a Chinese restaurant we used to go to a couple of times a year. Here we were treated to fried shrimp dipped in hot mustard. We each got one and learned to discard the end sticking out from the batter. I never even realized they were related to those tiny things swimming around in shrimp wiggle.

Many members of my family have deadly allergic reactions to shellfish, so they haven’t featured in my adult life. I am afraid the recipe for shrimp wiggle may lie dormant for years to come along with instructions for white sauce.

32 thoughts on ““Canned (Shell)Fish 3

  1. What a lovely story. I remember making white sauce with my mother too and also being in charge of mashing the potatoes and making the gravy. Happy, happy memories …. sad that they’re now just memories though. (But I did love your story!) 😊

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  2. I too am enjoying your food memories – and it brings a lot more when I start thinking of mine…

    1950s: During the whitebait season here, our Friday lunchtime dash to the fish and chip shop changed (we raced up from primary school to get that lunch) – whenever it was the season, we would change our order to whitebait fritters. I remember once the guy had run out and he inserted paua fritters and they then became my go to on Friday…

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    1. I know neither paua not whitefish. I am on my way over to the internet to explore these two varieties. Sadly my elementary school was in a neighborhood so full of itself that it prohibited any businesses. So no running out for lunch for me.

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  3. That’s so amazing! Never saw canned shrimp, now I’ll have to see if it’s available here next time I go shopping! I don’t really have shrimp a lot either because my mom and brother are allergic (though my mother still eats them because she’s stubborn), but now I want some. And I’ll blame you again! πŸ™‚

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    1. It is lucky that your mom hasn’t had a very bad reaction. My daughter’s father had to be rushed to the hospital from a little shrimp in vegetable fried rice. I can take the blame for you eating them though.

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  4. Our local supermarket has their own fisheries and I tend to buy some kind of shellfish every week when I shop. But this week we’re at my flat East of London (or rather, maisonette as we have a garden for the dogs – essential) and our neighbour upstairs came down for a drink a couple of evenings ago. Since we’ve not been there in lockdown, and were eating at my daughter’s at the weekend, supplies were low. I don’t keep in crisps to avoid the temptation and there was nothing green left in the fridge to decorate nibbles with (makes them look more substantial)..
    I found a couple of cans of shelfish in the back of the cupboard. Very useful standby when mixed with low-fat cream cheese (fortunately bought recently. I buy it feeling saintly and it sits in the back of the fridge till it goes pink – before going green). Add some mild tabasco (for the crab) or tomato paste and mayo (for the shrimp) and (decorate with small tomatoes and rings of mini-sweet pepper. With my niggardly two types of cheese, my fish ‘pate’ to go on the crackers and some cut-down chipolata sausages from the freezer masquerading as cocktail sausages, I had my evening nibbles.
    Some of my favourite dishes area made up as I go along.

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  5. We had something I thought was called “Dill in Butter Sauce”. After several weeks of scorn my wife tracked it down. “Herring in dill and butter sauce”. I had been thinking that dill were little fish.

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  6. I wonder what my childhood would have been like had my mother been a cook. She burned Birds Eye frozen vegetables. That was about it. The first time I ever had real shrimp I was in high school. I can relate to your twice a year Chinese dinners. Great post, Elizabeth.

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  7. We learned how to make white sauce at school, Elizabeth, and I’m glad because it is a very useful skill to have. I’ve never had it with shrimp though. I don’t think I’ve ever had shrimp at all.

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