For 25 years the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service ran an aquaculture training center in Alabama. The Warm Water In-Service School, at the former Marion National Fish Hatchery, was in session between 1950 and 1974. Biologists from far and wide spent one year of their career learning, practicing, and honing their skills in warm water fisheries. The students were provided with furnished housing, which included any spouses and children.
The wives of the Marion hatchery employees, seeing different families each year, banded together and created the very lovely sounding Fishery Village Homemakers Club. Once a new cohort of trainees arrived, the members would work with their spouses and select an exciting project to enhance the time spent onsite. In 1966-67, it was decided to gather favored recipes from families of National Fish Hatchery (NFH) employees around the country. The final product was the magnificent “Hatchery Kitchen”, a beefy cookbook with 500+ recipes from coast to coast.
The book was reprinted in 1996 for the centennial celebration of D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery, where the original unbound recipes and notes are safely stored in the National Fish & Aquatic Conservation Archives. It was again reprinted in 2022 for the 150th celebration (sesquicentennial) of the National Fish Hatchery System, and this time they spiced it up with historical images from the Archives collection. The start of each recipe category has photos of vintage postcards from National Fish Hatcheries throughout the early years. It really adds a cherry on top of the publication.
Enter Adeline Kirtley, a Student Conservation Association (SCA) intern at the D.C. Booth hatchery, who was inspired to start making some of the delicious cuisine and share with her "egg"cellent co-workers. She tried to stick with the original ingredients and instructions as much as possible, and even when things weren't pear-fectly clear she usually managed a succulent success. The actual relishes were dished out to lucky Booth Society Friends Group members, hatchery employees and volunteers. The visual delights have been tastefully posted on the D.C. Booth Facebook page for everyone else to drool over.
Addy channeled her inner Julia Child and had a berry good time in the kitchen creating many of the savory treats. She kicked it off with a Sour Cream Raisin Pie recipe from the former New London NFH in Minnesota. She also made a mouthwatering Strawberry Chiffon Pie from the cookbook origins of Marion NFH, and a very filling Ground Beef Hot Dish from the current McNenny State Hatchery in South Dakota. The icing on the cake included many hours during the holidays working on appetizing Thanksgiving and Christmas samples of Stuffing, Scalloped Potatoes, Baked Corn, Sweet Potato Casserole, Pumpkin Pie, Christmas Stollen and Christmas Snowball Cookies. Best in Show, though, must be the unusual Easy Aspic recipe from Hagerman, Idaho. Instructions simply said to “pour into a mold”, but Addy went above and beyond to create a fish sculpture from the tomato soup and lemon jello concoction that looks a-maize-ing (word is still out whether anyone was reeled in by this interesting mixture).
So, what else were they whipping up for their families back in the 1960’s? The cookbook index includes standards such as cakes, vegetables, beef, poultry, salads and soups. However, there are also sections for icings, candy, popcycles (sic), wild game and preserves. Skimming the recipes it appears that many folks had quite a sweet tooth at the time, and they all sound so yummy that an extra trip to the dentist might be kneaded!
There are various traditional staples like banana bread, green bean casserole, lasagna, chili, potato salad, meat loaf and brownies. All time-tested classics, and how many times have you heard the saying “They just don’t make things like they used to??”
But…. have you ever tried Rattlesnake Steak or Mayonnaise Cake? What is in the Mystery Casserole (Coleman NFH) or Chicken Tremendous? Do you want to get woozy from the boozy Kentucky Colonel Candy soaked in bourbon for 3 hours? Guessing you haven't heard of German Galuskies that were mainly prevalent in one small section of Kansas. Also, let’s taco-bout the Tacos de Jocoqui from the former Mescalero NFH in New Mexico that sound cool but have a little heat. And we bet Elvis himself couldn’t help falling in love with the Viva La Souffle.
It is like going back in thyme flipping through the pages, and then you come upon something called Sweet and "Pungent" Pork from the former Berlin NFH in New Hampshire that makes you wonder if it was syrup'titiously added… Either way, when you boil it down you can probably always rely on good ol’ Linda’s Dessert Salad, Edith’s Fruit Salad or Aunt Jenny’s Stuffed Cabbage. When you have a recipe named after you it must be well-done!
Needless to say, this cookbook is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, and lettuce be thankful that the legacy lives on 55 years later. If you are interested in your own copy of this fun 1960’s project, they are available from The Pond Gift Shop via the Booth Society Friends Group website. You can kickstart a modern day Homemakers Club! And if you do happen to be in the baking mood this holiday season, we have merrily folded in the scrumptious Chocolate Peppermint Dessert recipe from the former Paint Bank NFH in Virginia for you to impress your friends, family, or peers. Stay jolly and bake on!
*Thanks for pudding up with all the food puns.....