Shouldn't fishcakes be a way to use leftovers instead of a mass-produced convenience food?

Three things come to mind when I hear or see the word 'fishcake'. Two memories from my youth in the 60s and 70s; my mother trying to make me eat some fish dish when I wouldn't touch the real thing because of the revolting fishcakes we were given at school on Fridays, and the rushed visit to the fish and chip shop for the less greasy option after a student drinking session.

Nowadays I suffer extreme irritation when a dish once used for leftovers is given a posh restaurant makeover - garnished and with an exotic sauce - and then offered at a lower (but still excessive) price than the other ridiculously expensive offerings on the menu. And then I eat the things anyway because I'm a cheapskate.

So my heart sinks when industry body Seafish and Waitrose trill a return to "chic" for what they call a 'healthy and affordable option' for all that cod, haddock or salmon (or alternatives such as more sustainable whiting) that hasn't convinced you of its worth without being bound together with egg and potatoes, seasoned and coated in breadcrumbs or batter.

Consumers bought £83m worth of ready-prepared fishcakes last year, up from £67m in 2007 and less than £51m in 2006, so this trend started well before other credit crunch comfort foods began re-emerging from the unfashionable shadows in which some should remain. Last week alone, say Waitrose, they sold over 7 tonnes of chilled fishcakes. The store says overall fishcake sales are up 55% in the past year, with its smoked haddock pre-packed fishcakes rising 88%.

OK, home-cooked fishcake fans can convince themselves their tastes and talents enable them to stretch both their cash and fish populations, and be a great way to get kids cooking, but let us not be seduced into eating more of the processed things.

Karen Galloway of Seafish says such increases are due to "the introduction of new flavours for the more discerning customer such as seabass, ginger and Thai-spiced varieties" and Waitrose's fish buyer Jeremy Langley makes the point that "they make an easy option for time-poor cooks who want to enjoy a filling and nutritious dinner with minimal effort."

Well, his flattery of customers might get him everywhere but, really, should it?

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