Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Rise of the American Fishstick

Michael Webster in his history of American fisheries policy notes that the destruction of traditional fish species such as cod and haddock forced the American government and fishing industry to promote new species of fish to the American consumer. However because many of these fish were, to put it delicately, ugly, they recommended that sellers display these fish only after they had been cut up into fillets or steaks and that in the case of the Monkfish they really would be wise to remove its hideous looking head before marketing it.

Julia Child with a monkfish

I find this very sad but also slightly amusing. Apparently these days we are eating some really god-awful looking fish. Webster goes on to say that the good old American fishstick was hailed by no less than President Eisenhower for its ability to increase fish consumption, convenience, and eliminate odors, not to mention its ability to hide those ugly fish under a crisp golden fried batter. He reports that production of fish sticks went from 3000 metric tons annually in 1953 to over 28,000 metric tons just two years later in 1955.