“Canned Fish 4”

For a long time in the 1970’s I had either no money or very little money. In the early part of that decade we received “commodity foods,” basically surplus goods packaged by the government in generic black and white cans and boxes. It included dried eggs, canned tomatoes and a block of what Keb Mo the singer refers to as “government cheese.” His song is the only good thing about that block of plastic-like cheese.

But in the mid-1970’s the government found another way to support agriculture by issuing food stamps (they came through the Department of Agriculture.)These little coupons could be exchanged for food while gaining one the critical stares of customers using cash. Fortunately we ate very low on the hog already, so those noisy people could find nothing to complain about. (Steak? Cola? Potato Chips? How dare they?”) No, my basket was filled with ingredients for the extremely helpful recipe book pictured above. And central among them was canned mackerel.

I could buy a pound of the canned fish for 59 cents and make a variety of filling dishes thanks to the booklet. Looking through the pages this afternoon I see a check mark next to every dish I prepared. Baked Fish Loaf, Creamed Mackerel, Baked Mackerel with Lemon, Fish Cakes, Mackerel Puff, Mackerel Fritters, Mackerel Turnovers and Mackerel Roll. Our favorite, as I recall, was the roll, a mackerel mix wrapped up in biscuit dough. Hearty and cheap.

Eventually the government went to issuing plastic cards which look similar to credit cards. It is harder to judge other shoppers I hope. But by that time I was again employed and I was able to buy a wider variety of food. I haven’t eaten canned mackerel since, but I am forever grateful for its place in my life. It was nutritious, filling and nearly tasty!

35 thoughts on ““Canned Fish 4”

  1. We went through poor periods, and we ate a lot of tuna fish. Thankfully, we had relief from time to time, so we still eat tuna occasionally. I’ve never noticed canned mackerel on the supermarket shelf.


  2. I like fresh mackerel, but I have never seen it canned. We also have it smoked here, which is nice with salad. It is also the only fish I have ever caught, on a boat trip I would sooner forget. After catching half a dozen or more on baited hooks run out on a line, I was so violently seasick, I spent the next few hours with my head over the side, and everyone else laughing hysterically at me.
    Best wishes, Pete.


  3. We were poor in the 80s, and I remember lots and lots of rice, sardines and tomato salad. Mom would cut them open after cleaning them, roll them up in corn flour and fry them, and we’d squeeze a lemon on them before eating. Perks of living near the sea, sardines were ridiculous cheap. And now I miss them. Gotta get some next time I go shopping, for old times sake!

    And I always find it… I don’t have the right word. Stupid? Infuriating? Not sure, that people resent recipients of government aid that’s pretty much barely enough for them not to starve when so much more money is spent on much less necessary things. That’s humans for ya, I guess. :/


  4. I must admit I’m still quite frugal from my days of having to go through challenging financial times in my life.
    Although Mackerel has never been on the menu here. I can still get several meals out of one roasting chicken for hubby & I though & do;
    Roast Chicken with roast veggies
    Sweet & sour chicken with rice
    Butter chicken (curry) & veg with rice
    Chicken mayo salad for sandwiches
    Chicken tacos
    Chicken noodle soup! 😀


  5. Your mention of making mackerel wrapped in biscuit dough reminded me of a dish my mother made called Salmon in a Blanket. I think that she mixed canned salmon, mayonnaise, and parsley flakes together, and then wrapped it in a biscuit dough. I’m going to have to look for that recipe.


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