At least I think they’re fishcakes. I have found yet another reason to love Uruguay.
If you grew up in the Northeastern USA during the 1950s-1970s, you probably know of what I speak. If not, you can skip this post about working-class comfort food.
I grew up in a working-class family in a small town outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Fish and other seafood were everywhere, and were very affordable. Among the most affordable was the lowly fishcake: a patty of smushed-up fish (of some sort), potatoes, some spices (mild, of course, we’re talking New England here), and a fried breading. You’d bake them up, toss some ketchup (catsup!) or tartar sauce on them, and go to town along with the fries. Chips for you Brits.
My wife Lisa Marie grew up in a working-class family in the Bronx, New York City, NY. Apparently fishcakes made it down the coast that far too. She introduced me to many things, but one of them was “Fishcakes and Spaghetti”. Which for some reason we never had in New England, at least not in my family. During our years in Manhattan and then back up in Boston, Lisa and I would make this up as wonderful comfort food. You could still get packages of fishcakes in the supermarkets.
Then we moved out West. First to Colorado, then to Washington State. With a brief time in the Southeast, in North Carolina. Nowhere are fishcakes to be found. Fish sticks, yes, but the fish inside, though generic, is still identifiably flaked actual fish flesh. Not the smusherific mix of fish-n-stuff in a proper fishcake. Fishcakes seem to have disappeared from the American diet and American way of life.
Ah, but there’s more to “America” than North America, and more to America than the United States of America. This is, for sure, a Travel Blog. And if one travels many thousands of kilometers southeast down the American supercontinent, one eventually arrives at the wonderful, peaceful, modern-yet-old, slow-paced Oriental Republic of Uruguay. Where I am at this moment.
And where, in the local chain supermarket, el Supermercado Disco, one can purchase “Formitas de merluza”. Fish forms. Made with some rice and wheat rather than potatoes, denser, but the closest thing to a New England Fishcake I’ve had since we moved away from Boston in 2004. Two nights ago, Fishcakes & Spaghetti. The spaghetti was store-made fresh soft pasta with peppers, far too sophisticated for the “Supreme” supermarket in Mattapan Square or the “Stop and Shop” in Quincy. But it was Fishcakes & Spaghetti nonetheless.
They sometimes call Uruguay, “Eisenhower’s America”. Yes they do, and now I know yet another reason why.