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Jenny Turknett: Fish sticks

Fish Sticks

credit: Jenny Turknett

Favorite Movie: Cinderella

Favorite Color: Blue

Favorite Food: Fish Sticks


When my daughter was three, I attended the parent night at her preschool. There were many lovely examples of the kids’ work displayed around the room, including interviews with the children about their favorite things. I happily scanned my daughter’s interview. Yes, she loved Cinderella and her favorite color was blue. But then I almost dropped her laminated apple tree to the floor when I came to her favorite food.

Fish sticks? Those frozen fingers of unidentifiable seafood? The ones responsible for that smell — the one that hung in school hallways on fish stick days? My daughter had never eaten fish sticks. Fish sticks were not on the menu at our house.

I secretly prided myself on the fact that she was the only three-year-old who requested scones for the snack rotation. My daughter was the one who ate grilled cheese sandwiches made with brie and requested crème brulée instead of birthday cakes.

Fish sticks? Really? I admit that I wanted that list taken down as soon as possible, lest someone see.

So in my motherly wisdom, I decided to buy a box of fish sticks for her to try — she could decide for herself. She would see. I was sure that her verdict was a foregone conclusion.

With fish sticks in the oven, the smell enveloped the house. Was that enough? Was the fish stick experiment over? Nope. She didn’t notice.

And if you hadn’t guessed, she LOVED the fish sticks. Ha! That was a humbling moment. But to my relief, after eating them a few times, she reversed her opinion.  She declared that she hated fish sticks and we should never serve them to her again. Whew. Now could we go back to the classroom and make a revision to her list?

Jenny-Turknett-TaglineIs it just me (and now my daughter)? Do you like fish sticks?

–by Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog

– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team. She also publishes her own blog, Going Low Carb.

30 comments Add your comment


November 30th, 2010
8:09 am

Sometimes you just have to have them…..LOL


November 30th, 2010
8:15 am


November 30th, 2010
8:26 am

As a kid I absolutely loved them, along with those frozen breaded scallops. When our folks took us to main on a vacation, we hated the scallops because they didn’t taste like the ones out of a box. Now? Not so much, though I have a friend who still says the only kind of fish he likes is the square kind.


November 30th, 2010
8:27 am

Oops. that was supposed to be Maine! not main.

Jenn B

November 30th, 2010
8:29 am

Only with tons of tartar sauce! I’ve never been a huge fish stick fan, too much breading not enough “minced” (I love that ad). I made them for my son when he was about 1.5 and he wouldn’t eat them. He does love fish though. Last night we had baked tilapia with bread crumbs on top and he ate an entire filet (he’s 2). Sad thing is, the tilapia took less time to bake than frozen fish sticks and about 30 seconds more than just dumping a box on a sheet.

Jenn B

November 30th, 2010
8:31 am

Oh, and that’s sad because most parents feed the nasty fish sticks because I’m sure they believe they don’t have the time to prepare something better.


November 30th, 2010
8:36 am

I like making them with halibut dipped in beaten egg then dredged in a combination of whole meat panko and almond meal, seasoned with some Old Bay, then backed in a really hot oven for 10 minutes.
This is a low-glycemic recipe and South Beach friendly.

Jenny Turknett

November 30th, 2010
8:54 am

Lisa, your fish sticks sound infinitely better than the frozen kind! REAL fish sticks.

Jenn B – you make a good point that cooking fresh fish is far faster than cooking the frozen kind… and healthier… and better tasting!


November 30th, 2010
8:54 am

yes, what a relief…god forbid a three year old enjoy fish sticks or american cheese.


November 30th, 2010
9:00 am

I do… but I prefer them fresh and in a fish taco! With some cilantro jalapeno slaw. :)

Lisa, your recipe sounds great.

I had a somewhat similar story, but the opposite. When I was in kindergarten, we created a cookbook, and we had to give the teacher the recipe. Peanut butter and jelly, hamburgers, sloppy joes were most of the choices. And then there was my “veal scallopine”, with almost every aspect of the recipe my mom uses. My family still wont let me live that one down.

John Kessler

November 30th, 2010
9:04 am

I was a total fish stick freak as a kid. Mrs. Paul’s all the way. When my own kids were little I bought them once in a while as what I billed a “special treat,” and they pretty much hated them. But they’ve grown up with homemade fried fish tacos.


November 30th, 2010
9:16 am

We really have become so spoiled and forgetful in our relative old ages. When I grew up in the 60’s, there were very few chain restaurants and grocery stores closed at 5 p.m.. Seafood wasn’t available from your local grocer; you had to go to the local fish market, if your town or city was lucky to have one. Mom’s were more and more in the work place; mine was a teacher; leaving very little time for spur-of-the-moment meal planning, e.g. “Hey I’ll just pop in Fresh Market, or for that matter Publix, for some fresh tilapia. Foods like fish sticks were the precursor to all of the frozen and fresh variety that every grocery now has available… some open 24-hours a day. It was a way for mom’s to offer something a little different and I’d take them over the once-a-month fried liver any day of the week. While we malign such foods now, they are indelibly etched in the olfactory memories of our childhoods and for that reason, I pay tribute to the lowly fish stick.


November 30th, 2010
9:20 am

As a kid, when we smelled fish sticks in the oven, my brother and I knew that our parents were going out for the night. They would never eat them.


November 30th, 2010
9:40 am

I’m with you. I have NEVER made fish sticks for my children. When I discovered that my five year old loved tilapia, how could I introduce them to a fish stick? I did try sloppy joes one night since I loved them as a child but my children protested and even said that it made them throw up in their mouths. Kids have more sophisticated tastes these days :)


November 30th, 2010
9:49 am

I loved fish sticks as a kid (who grew up in the 70’s). Also,corn dogs and the fried chicken or salisbury steak TV dinners. See Art’s explanation above for the reasons my Mom served them. Now I think that stuff is just gross except for right now I could really go for a corn dog.


November 30th, 2010
9:50 am

I had a strange love/hate relationship with fish sticks growing up. Most of the time it was hate (and dear lord the smell of the cafeteria on fish stick days…), but every once in a while I’d have some odd craving for them. I’d ask my mom for some, but usually after a few bites wonder what in the world I was thinking. I would then have to devise a way to secretly dispose of them.


November 30th, 2010
9:56 am

They’re no worse than bologna and American cheese sandwiches. For that matter – if you’re grossed out by fish sticks, aren’t chicken nuggets basically the same thing? Will our grandkids be writing columns about how their parents fixed them chicken nuggets when they were going out to a restaurant, and how they’ll never serve them to THEIR kids?


November 30th, 2010
10:17 am

My kids love them, but not the old style minced fish. Plenty of options now with whole fish filets – actually looks like fish when you pull away the breading.


November 30th, 2010
10:19 am

Wow, it is such a coincidence that this subject has come up. Just over Thanksgiving weekend my wife and I were reminiscing about fish sticks during our 60’s school days. I expressed my fond memories of the school standard flat fish sticks with a thin, but very even, coat of breading – yum! Those “issued” in school back then were nothing like the Mrs. Pauls and others available today. I’ve honestly looked, and I can’t find those 60’s school house fish sticks anywhere. Sure do miss em.


November 30th, 2010
11:06 am

SNOBS, the lot of you! (just kidding)

True, it’s been forever and a day since I found myself wanting a fish stick (of any kind, homemade or frozen) but I look at it like I look at greasy fast food – sometimes, you just gotta. Everyone needs an oil change once in a while. ;)

My Mother would (and still does) make fresh catfish nuggets, served with grits. But that’s more a mini fish fry than fish sticks I guess.

I wonder, Jenny, if your kid’s reversal of opinion was based on subtle, subconscious input from you, or if she truly decided she didn’t like them. My Mother has hated cucumbers for as long as I can remember, and never ever served them to us and thereby I didn’t eat them until I became an adult, but now I can’t get enough of them. If you find her sneaking Mrs. Pauls in her Easy Bake, then you’ll know. :)

Jenny Turknett

November 30th, 2010
11:28 am

Rodney, I’ll be the first to admit that you could be right! I did try to remain neutral when she tried them, but I don’t have the best poker face. And funny you should mention the Easy Bake Oven because I have a post coming up about those, too! ;)


November 30th, 2010
2:13 pm

When I was a kid, we had all kinds of fish at our house. My dad was Italian…from the “other side” and in Italy, fish on Friday was a staple in his house. However, my sister and I loved crunchy fish sticks with spaghetti in red sauce on the side. They were so different from what we were regularly served. I agree with someone’s comment that you can get them much healtheir now and hey, fish is brain food no matter the form. In regard to your little girl’s comment, I bet it had more to do with what one of her peers said or told her about fish sticks if she’d never had them. Kids say the darnedest things to their teachers, half of which we never know about but might explain why they look at us funny sometimes!


November 30th, 2010
2:44 pm

I didn’t like them as a kid and nt big on them now..As has already been mentioned above, my two love tilapia, so I don’t usually buy them..

Jenny,I always tell my two (8 year old twins) that just because I don’t like something, doesn’t mean that I won’t make it for them and let them decide if they like it, maybe as your daughter gets older, this may work for you also..They don’t eat a lot of typical “kid” foods, so I pretty much don’t have to eat what I consider yucky stuff..


November 30th, 2010
3:48 pm

LOVED them as a kid… only got them on special occasions, still enjoy them today on the infrequent occasions when I enjoy them.

Jim R.

November 30th, 2010
9:17 pm

Good when they are small and fresh but get a little gamey when they are large. Used to catch them and cook them right away. Great with homegrown hushpuppies. Have not had them lately, trying to practice catch and release.


December 1st, 2010
11:24 am

We had ‘em when I was a kid, but my kids really never got into them. I have to agree with the previous poster about how this came to be. I know my parents did not have access to fresh fish. We either ate frozen, or none at all.

On the Sloppy Joe topic, my wife showed me the best (and easiest) recipe for these. Brown a pound of ground beef with some onion in it. Dump in a can of Campbells condensed Chicken Gumbo soup (but no water, just the soup) Squirt in a few tablespoons of ketchup. Then about a tablespoon of mustard. ( I put in about two of ketchup, one of mustard, then taste-it takes less mustard than you think it will) Stir while it heats, and you’re done.


December 1st, 2010
3:51 pm

I like the fishstix at Red Lobster. They taset like Gordons fish stix my momma use to make. I like to put the tar tar sauce on them. My papaw put vingar on it and he learn that in WW2. He killed 30 Germans once when he was over there and none of them could kill him back. But then he was eating at red Lobster and choke on a fish stix one day. Memaw said he was old and it was not the fish stix falt. We had a party at Red Lobster in his honer and it was funny kind of but not funny but I choke on a fish stix and someone give me the hemlick thing. The manager Earl did and I owe my life to him but some people say it was papaw telling us he was there with us at Red Lobster. I beleive it because when I wreck my Gremlin he woke me up and told me to get out of the ditch and as soon as I did it caught on fire. So now I go eat fish stix at Red Lobster every year on his birthday.


December 1st, 2010
3:55 pm

I love to eat fish sticks. They are so tasty. Its hard to get the good ones like back in the day but I try to. Sometimes when there are fish sticks at my local food court, I try to get extras to bring home to my son. I want to get him to enjoy the flavor and healthy snack that fish sticks offer.


December 1st, 2010
3:58 pm

Fish sticks are great food. And easy to eat. And really affordable. You can save a lot of money by getting a box at the grocery store and bringing in a few per day and eating them for lunch. A whole box can last a week. They reheat quickly in the microwave. (and you can save even more money when they do the by one get one free specials too!)

Kristi Yover

December 3rd, 2010
8:46 pm

This article made me smile-1. because I know what a “foodie” you are and this must have really been a shocker, and 2. because I served them once, and both kids were gagging trying to swallow them…that was the end of that. lol I like to call them “Ocean Surprise” because seriously….what exactly IS in them? I hear everything from dolphin, shark, nemo….yikes.