by Dennis J. Duffy and guest Chantaal Ryane (Digital Access Specialist, Royal BC Museum)
The above video clip comprises edited excerpts from the promotional film Silver Harvest, produced by Trans-Canada Films for British Columbia Packers in 1951. The last half of the 21-minute film is devoted to a staged cooking demonstration that shows four ways of preparing and serving Clover Leaf canned salmon.
The on-screen presenter, Margaret Henderson, wrote a regular cooking and homemaking column for the Vancouver Daily Province, and also hosted “The Province Kitchen”, a radio program heard on CKWX Vancouver in the 1940s and 1950s. (The archives holds 22 episodes of the latter, preserved on audio disc or tape.) In the film, Margaret demonstrates the preparation of four meals, each using a different variety of canned salmon.
1. Baked Pink Salmon Loaf (“with swirls of whipped potato and green peas”):
DD: “Frankly, the word ‘loaf’ just isn’t very appealing in this context.”
CR: “My mother used to make salmon loaf, too, even though we lived on the prairies. But I can tell you, she couldn’t have been bothered to pipe whipped potatoes out of a pastry bag to make it look nice. And in the 1960s, we’d never have had a fresh lemon on hand to waste as a garnish. And what’s with that moat of green peas?”
DD: “What do you think about the amount of starch here? I mean, do we need cooked macaroni AND whipped spuds?”
CR: “Can you HAVE too much starch? It’s a cold-weather meal, and it would stick to your ribs. And probably your thighs and hips, too!”
2. Coho Salmon a la King (in toasted bread cups) —
CR: “Creamed salmon in a toasted bread cup. With hard-boiled eggs, cream sauce, and more of that delicious canned salmon. What can I say? ”
DD: “Would any woman really serve this to her girlfriends when they dropped over?”
CR: “Well, I wouldn’t. But that’s because I LIKE my girlfriends.”
DD: “But they say it’s full of nutrients.”
CR: “If you like your nutrients mashed up and spooned over dried bread.”
3. Sockeye Salmon in a Molded Jellied Salad —
CR: “Wow. Where to start?
DD: “Well, maybe with the whole idea of salmon salad molded in the shape of a fish.”
CR: “Well, it’s in the great culinary tradition of jellied salads. You know the type — a box of any-flavoured Jell-O; some combination of celery, chopped ham, tinned mandarin orange segments; and grated cabbage. And a handful of Kraft miniature marshmallows.”
DD: “People would pile that on their Melmac plates and heap lavish praise on the woman who made it. It looks deadly.”
CR: “That glistening, shining aspic, mimicking the shining scales of a salmon — it’s really kind of off-putting.”
DD: “So are the sliced olives meant to be scales—or eyes? And who wants a salad that looks back at you?”
CR: “And it’s worse when you know that the aspic contains vinegar, salmon juice, and gelatin. Mmmm — tasty!”
DD: “Salmon juice — yikes.” [shudders with revulsion]
4. The “Bachelor’s Special”—
DD: “This is a “quickie” meal, which basically involves opening a can of sockeye, breaking up the contents on a plate, and throwing some vegetables at it. Oh, and pouring the narrator a cup of coffee.”
CR: “Expectations were pretty low for men in the kitchen back then. Although he did have to arrange the tomatoes on top of the iceberg lettuce.”
DD: “And remember to dress it up with some parsley. Left to his own devices, he’d probably eat it out of the tin, with his head over the sink!”
CR: “I’m not sure that the meal was meant to be made by the man, so much as something a wife could make quickly to feed Elmer when she went out for her bridge night.”
DD: “Of the four meals, this is the only one I could remotely imagine eating. Or making.”
* * * * *
Two more BC Packers Limited film items of considerable interest are the 1950s-era Clover Leaf TV commercials that were found spliced onto the end of this print of Silver Harvest.
For a look at more vintage salmon recipes, see Cooking with Clover Leaf — Part 2.