22 December 2014

Comfort in Cans

Vancouver Aquarium Seafood Recipes
Ainley Jackson
Vancouver: Gordon Soules, 1977

No living creature from the aquarium was killed in the making of this book. I'm willing to bet on it.

Vancouver Aquarium Seafood Recipes was a fundraiser; its contributors – 79 by my count – were members and supporters. I was once a member myself, and for a time lived within walking distance.

Vancouver is a great city for seafood. One gets a sense in this book, but not more than that. It's a product of the 'seventies, meaning that spices are few, herbs are unheard of, and pretty much everything comes in cans. This last isn't such a bad thing. We now live over 3200 kilometres east of Vancouver, and roughly 1400 kilometres from the nearest ocean. It's a good 45 minutes drive to the nearest seafood store.

So, yeah, cans are fine.

The first dish tackled was patron Isabel M. Latta's "Buffet Salmon Casserole".

I wanted to make it just as Ms Latta had, so resisted all temptation to add ingredients. Anyone looking to follow my lead might consider adding a dram or two of milk to the condensed cream of mushroom soup, cutting back a bit on the bread, and, oh… pepper.

Kate Salter's "Tuna Baked in Scallop Shells" was even better.

Again, I'd cut down a bit on the bread.

Though neither was anything like what mother used to make, I recognize both dishes as comfort food. Just the thing as we head into the holidays.

The one quibble I have with this fundraiser is that all measurements are imperial. This made shopping for cans a chore. I mean, really, in 1977 metric wasn't coming to Canada – it had arrived.

As for fresh seafood? For my family, in the 'seventies it wasn't even on the horizon.

Trivia: Ainley Jackson not only put the whole thing together, but contributed over one hundred illustrations.

Object: A 112-page trade-size paperback printed on glossy paper with binding fairly designed to come apart. I purchased my copy for 75¢ at the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Stratford, Ontario.

Access: As of this writing, nine copies are on offer from online booksellers. Prices range from one to five American dollars.

Library and Archives Canada and the Toronto Public Library have copies, as do four of our university libraries. Vancouverites will have to make do with a single reference copy housed in the stacks of the Central Branch.

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  1. Review brings back memories of our weekly fish on Friday meal: Tuna noodle casserole...as you said, real comfort food! I will try the tuna baked in scallop shells!

    1. I'll be interested in learning what you think, Nancy. I quite liked it myself.