By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Monday night supper

Every so often I get codfish cakes from Whole Foods. Rarely, though, do I go with the full experience from my childhood. Tonight I decided to pull out all the stops and create a favorite meal my mother used to make.

So let me start with the fish cakes. Here is where a bit of mystery creeps in. As I said, I buy them and then bake them in the oven. What my mother did was very different, and it’s long since lost to memory. I wish I could ask her; I wish I could ask her a lot of things. But from what I remember, she started with a can of codfish, mixed it with other ingredients (potatoes, probably, since that seems pretty standard), formed it into cakes and fried them in a wrought-iron skillet. They were spectacular, and I wish I had the recipe — assuming you can even get canned codfish these days.

The rest is more straightforward. My mother made great cole slaw, but I didn’t appreciate it at the time. What you see here is from the Blue Ribbon BBQ in Arlington, and it’s almost as good as Mom’s. (Also excellent is the cole slaw at Woodman’s in Essex.)

The finishing touch, believe it or not, is canned spaghetti. I don’t know why, but it was always served with fish cakes, and it was always Franco-American. I’m not sure they make it anymore. What you’re looking at here is Campbell’s.

Served with ketchup, it’s a perfect meal.

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  1. Tom Stites

    I love this. I want to try it. I’ve made a couple of my mother’s signature dishes in recent months, and you inspire me to make some more.

  2. nahantjim

    We are in the second half of our seventies. Our evenings follow a predictable routine.

    We live in a small house in the smallest town in the Commonwealth, surrounded by the sea, save for the Causeway that connects us with the Mainland. I prepare dinner and we go upstairs to watch the PBS Newshour while we eat it. After the Newshour we get a little desert and watch a show. Tonight, thanks to Mr. Kennedy, we watched the Joan Didion documentary, The Center Will Not Hold. She is a writer I know mostly from The New York Review of Books. There are more than 18,000 references to her in that publication (I checked). She is nine years older than I am which means that, for as long as I have been aware of her work, she has always been writing about things I was experiencing from a slightly more experienced, nuanced perspective. The documentary I saw tonight underlined that, in her life, she has had experiences that I will never have and some that I do not wish to ever have but which may come, unbidden, anyway. Toward the very end of the documentary we see President Obama award the Congressional Medal of Freedom to her…not to Rush Limbaugh. As a rule, when I see something moving and well done I write to my daughters about it. Not tonight. Not tonight.

    I came downstairs, opened my laptop and this article appeared. The minute I saw the photograph I knew it was (or should have been) Franco American spaghetti. But the cakes my mother made were from salmon. I see no mention of it but I wonder…Did Dan Kennedy ever have a quick Wonder Bread and Franco American spaghetti sandwich?

    Thanks, Dan, for the recommendation and for the memory of my mother’s supper table.

  3. Paul Hutch

    Franco-American canned spaghetti is still available however it is has been branded as Campbell’s since 2004. (Campbell’s has owned Franco-American since 1915)

    I never developed a taste for it because I lived in Oaklawn RI from age 7 to 15 where any canned pasta is heresy!


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