Fish sticks were introduced in 1953 by Birdseye, the company that made frozen food palatable and therefore popular. Fish sticks came to be extremely popular over the decades, believe it or not, because kids like them and families (and institutions) find them so convenient. An article at Hakai magazine explains why fish sticks were developed, how they are made, and why they’ve stayed with us so long. They are made from various kinds of mildly-favored fish with a battered coating that keeps them from sticking together in the freezer.
The battered disguise may be needed because, at least in North America, seafood has often been second-tier. “We’ve mostly considered the eating of fish to be beneath our aspirations,” writes chef and author Barton Seaver in American Seafood. Traditionally, fish was associated with sacrifice and penance—food to eat when meat was unaffordable or, if you were Catholic, to eat on the many days when red meat is verboten. Fish also spoils fast, smells bad, and contains sharp bones that pose a choking hazard.
The advent of fish sticks made eating fish easier and more palatable for the seafood wary. “You can almost pretend that it isn’t fish,” says Ingo Heidbrink, a maritime historian at Old Dominion University in Virginia. In his native Germany, where a reported seven million people eat fish sticks at least once a week, companies changed the fish at least three times since its introduction, from cod to pollock to Alaska pollock, a distinct species. “Consumers didn’t seem to notice,” says Heidbrink.
Personally, while I served them to the kids at times, I avoid fish sticks because I ate them at school every Friday from first through sixth grade, and that’s enough. But they proved to be quite popular among folks who stocked up for the pandemic. Read everything you ever wanted to know about fish sticks at Hakai magazine. -via Digg
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