Something Fishy Here–Cooking Seafood

I told mother I was making sauteed scallops for dinner. Cooking seafood seemed alien to her.

“But don’t they just taste like rubber bands?” she said.

I was sad that she had arrived in her nineties and had never eaten a soft, sensuous sea-salty scallop–at least one that had not been overcooked.

Anything I learned about cooking seafood, I learned long after I got married. In our household, acquaintance with fish was limited to canned tiny shrimp for cocktail parties, canned salmon, and when frozen food became the rage–the go-to quick meal of busy mothers–fish sticks.

Paul Kaser in Canada 1971

Paul Kaser in Canada 1971

The one exception to the absence of fish as a main dish was fish caught on vacation. Those would be decapitated and gutted by my father, and then pan fried in the kitchen of the cabin where we were vacationing. Somehow that didn’t qualify in my mind as cooking seafood.

Maybe because of its scarcity around our house, I loved seafood. When mother was getting ready for a party, she had to chase me out of the kitchen, because I would eat the little cocktail shrimp straight out of the can before she had a chance to stick them with a toothpick and put them on a tray. Later when I met lobster, it was love at first sight, and my idea of ultimate luxury was to go out to dinner and have the lobster and steak meal.

Of course I blamed mother (that’s what daughters do) for not cooking seafood. I assumed that she was just timid about learning how to cook seafood. Upon reflection, I realize that seafood would have been rare in Northeastern Ohio on the tables of my grandmother or great-grandmother as well , unless the boys went fishing in the “crick.” Before refrigerated trucks and airplanes flying frozen fish from Alaska and Maine to the Midwest, the only sea creatures in the grocery store came in cans.

Mike Badertscher, Lake Erie 1966

My son, Mike Badertscher, Lake Erie 1966

So my own adventures in cooking seafood were slow to develop. As a young bride, I leaned on the newspaper columnist Heloise for all kinds of advice about homemaking and home cooking. Remember Hints from Heloise? (Actually, the column, which started in 1959,  is not a thing of the past. Although the original Heloise died in 1977, her daughter took over the column and added a website.)

In my timid beginnings of dealing with fish, I loved this recipe for canned salmon from Heloise. I have moved on to only accepting wild-caught salmon, but still let the butcher do the messy prep work.

Heloise’s Salmon

Heloise’s Salmon


  • can salmon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
  • vegetable oil for cooking
  • 1/2 cup flour


1. Drain and save liquid.
2. Add egg and flour to salmon and mix.
3. Stir baking powder into liquid
4. Use iced tea spoons to shape and drop small rounds into hot fat.


I would add a bit of parsley and some lemon pepper, but Heloise's original recipe did not call for any seasoning.


The photo of cans of salmon comes from Flickr and is used with a Creative Commons license. See more about the photographer.

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10 thoughts on “Something Fishy Here–Cooking Seafood

  1. Kerry Dexter

    wait — is there meant to be flour in the ingredients list? I see only baking powder, but then the instructions say flour…

    anyway, reminds me of how regional our cooking is, or at least used to be, even when we didn’t realize it — having lived near at least three different seacoasts as well as a few rivers and lakes myself. good for you learning about cooking something you love.

    1. Vera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Kerry: Thanks for catching that. Flour was mentioned in the instructions, but not in the ingredients. I’ve fixed it, so people will not get confused, I hope.
      And yes, I do forget that we used to eat only what we could find within a 20-or so mile radius. A fact that we’re returning to with “buy local”, although I’m not about to give up my wild-caught salmon, just because I live in Arizona!

  2. Bro

    You neglect to give full credit to all the pan fish (and perch as shown in the photo) we caught ,which, depending on temperature and clarity of the water in which they were caught, could have a mild, almost sweet taste. lightly floured and fried with butter. I learned early on I had to clean, gut, and scale anything I caught (except catfish which had to be nailed down and skinned). Maybe you missed out on some of these messy tasks—-too squeamish? Here’s my family recipe for cooking mudfish (carp). Nail the carp to a board and salt lightly. Roast for fifteen minutes. Pull the carp off the board and throw the carp away. Eat the board.

  3. Living Large

    Sadly, I was deprived of seafood as a child. My mother was forced to drink cod liver oil as a kid and developed a deep hatred for anything “fishy.” The only thing she did like was shrimp, which was unfortunately, reversed when she ate some bad shrimp and got sick. The only time I ever got fish was on my B-day and I chose Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips for my B-Day dinner each year. Luckily, I started dating my husband when I was only 15 and he loved seafood so I finally got some good stuff.

  4. Vera Marie Badertscher

    Oh, my, yes. Cod Liver Oil would turn you off fish for sure. I don’t think my mother had a deep disllike for fish, but she DID have to take cod liver oil as a child. I did too, when I was very young, but fortunately that didn’t last long.


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