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!