Fish Surprise Sticks – A Mid-Century Recipe Test

Posted on Feb 8 2012 - 6:15am by RetroRuth

Surprise! It’s time for another Mid-Century Menu meal! Much to my joy, and Tom’s consternation, this week’s menu contains two elements that guarantee that this will be a memorable meal. The first one is the title of the recipe.  Now, in the real world, the word “surprise” usually has a pleasant connotation. Oh, not all of the time. I know this. There are good and bad surprises. But they vary. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad.

This is not the case in Mid-Century Cooking. “Surprise” in the title of a recipe is bad. Always. It signals that there is an ingredient lurking in that rather bland looking casserole, an unexpected and crazy ingredient. And you are almost always sorry when you find it.


In this case, “surprise” means that we are going to be jamming unsuspecting fish sticks and dill pickles into innocent corn muffin mix, and then laughing manically because, well, I am pretty sure that is how you act when you’ve gone over the edge.

As a super-bonus, and as the second element that guarantees a memorable meal, the cookbook I got this recipe from has “unusual” in the title.

Unusual And Old World Recipes002

Unusual Old World and American Recipes, 1972, brought to you by the awesome people at Nordic Ware, who just weren’t able to leave good, solid corn muffins alone, god bless ‘em.

Unusual And Old World Recipes003

Unusual And Old World Recipes003

So, are you surprised?

[nodding enthusiastically]

Oh yeah.

That means it’s time to rock and roll.


As a change of pace, and in an attempt to be a more agreeable person overall, I am only going to say good things about this recipe. Starting…

Good Thing #1: This recipe didn’t take long to prepare. It used pre-packaged products, so I didn’t have to slave over a double-boiler filled with white sauce that doesn’t want to thicken.


Good Thing #2: I was able to cook the fish sticks ahead of time so that they wouldn’t be all soggy inside of the corn muffin mix.


Good Thing #3: I got to use Jiffy Corn Muffin mix, which I enjoy but hardly ever make.


Good Thing #4: Tarter sauce is actually gooey enough to glue a pickle to a fish stick.

Good Thing #4.5:  That was a sentence I never expected to be typing on this blog, and yet there it is.


Good Thing #5:  Mini loaf pans can fill in when you are in a pinch because you can’t find your corn stick pan.

Good Thing #5.25: When you call your mom to ask her where a pan is you haven’t seen in 10+ years, she doesn’t get mad at you.  (“Mom! Where is that stupid corn stick pan thing????” “Honey, I have customers waiting for me to cut them fabric. Can this wait? Please?”)

Good Thing #5.5: The cat with a gluten allergy that likes to eat corn muffin mix was taking a nap. (Take that, Smidge!)


Good Thing #6: To everyone’s utter astonishment, this stupid recipe actually works.


Good Thing #7: Tom looks awesome in his new glasses.

Good Thing #7.5: Tom was willing to eat these things for lunch.


“There are fish sticks in here.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“And pickles.”


I took a bite, too. We chewed thoughtfully together.

“Not too bad, if you don’t mind eating a corn muffin with a fish stick in it.”

I nodded. “The pickle isn’t too bad either. Though, if I was going to make this again, I would use sweet pickles.”

“Don’t make this again.”

“I won’t, don’t worry.”


“I won’t!”

We both kept chewing. Finally, Tom finished his loaf. “So, what’s this called anyway? Corn Muffin Surprise?”

I laughed. “That’s close. Really, really close.”

The Verdict: Edible. Not something delicious by any means.  Would probably be enjoyed by small children, sans pickle. But, in the spirit of keeping things positive, the recipe totally delivered what it promised: A fish stick surprise.

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I love everything retro, vintage, mid-century, kitsch and all things atomic! A 21st century housewife just trying to fit the 50's. I have a passion for vintage recipes and an enormous vintage cookbook collection that I keep testing, even though by now I should know better. Creator of Mid-Century Menu (, No Pattern Required (, and I Ate The 80's (

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29 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Yinzerella February 8, 2012 at 8:40 am - Reply

    I love recipes with ‘surprise’ ‘deluxe’ or ‘spectacular’ in the name. Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that if you did the sausage variation of this recipe it could be bordering on tasty.

    And Tom does look handsome in his new specs.

    • RetroRuth February 8, 2012 at 8:47 am - Reply

      Yeah, Yinzerella, that’s kind of what I thought about the sausages. And since I already knew what that would taste like, we went with the fish sticks.

      Besides, “Sausage Surprise Sticks” as a name is a little too… 🙂

      Oh, and Tom will be glad to hear you like the glasses!

  2. Charlotte February 8, 2012 at 9:14 am - Reply

    I’m intrigued by the suggestion that you can substitute sausages for the fish sticks. A sausage in a corn muffin wouldn’t be bad, but they don’t say you should omit the mustard or tartar sauce! I’m hoping that’s what they meant, though. 🙂

    • RetroRuth February 8, 2012 at 9:15 am - Reply

      Charlotte! You reminded me of a question I was going to ask everyone: Does anyone out there put mustard (plain yellow mustard) on fish sticks??? Fess up!

      • Charlotte February 8, 2012 at 11:05 am - Reply

        Mustard on a fish stick seems weird to me, but I’ve probably done stranger things! 🙂

        • RetroRuth February 10, 2012 at 10:58 am - Reply

          Yeah, I can imagine I’ve done stranger things as well…

  3. Sara In AZ February 8, 2012 at 9:51 am - Reply

    Something REALLY terrifies me about pickles paired with fish sticks, I just don’t think I can go there. eeks! And yeah, thanks for skipping the mustard on the fish – mustard WITH pickles, barf-city girl! No, I have never had mustard with fish. yuck…..

    ps- LOVE Tom’s new glasses, super cute!

    • Sara In AZ February 8, 2012 at 9:52 am - Reply

      I forgot to say I love the new banner too!!!!

    • Charlotte February 8, 2012 at 11:07 am - Reply

      The pickle part doesn’t freak me out so much since there are pickles in tartar sauce too. But adding a corn muffin to the mix of flavors seems whack-a-doodle!

      • RetroRuth February 10, 2012 at 10:48 am - Reply

        Agreed!! 🙂

    • RetroRuth February 10, 2012 at 10:49 am - Reply

      Glad you like the new glasses. 🙂 And yeah, the whole thing was so weird!

  4. veg-o-matic February 8, 2012 at 11:25 am - Reply

    Well. Putting fish sticks and pickles in corn muffins just seems so…random. Like the Registered Home Economists at Nordic Ware threw darts at a list of ingredients.
    “Fish sticks and pickles? In corn muffin batter? Helen, don’t you think that’s a bit…off?”
    “Oh, fiddlededee, Martha. We’ll say the recipe’s from Finland; that’ll explain everything.”

    Oh, and Tom does look awesome in his new glasses.

    • RetroRuth February 10, 2012 at 10:51 am - Reply

      Ha ha! That it totally what it feels like! I was thinking maybe they were trying for corn dog, but it fell completely flat…

      I will tell Tom you like the glasses! 🙂

  5. Angela February 8, 2012 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    When I read the title, I said the following things aloud: “Fish SURPRISE Sticks? What…OH GOD!”

    That pretty much summed it all up for me. At least it was kinda neat looking?

    • RetroRuth February 10, 2012 at 10:52 am - Reply

      Yeah, that’s pretty much how I felt while I was making it. 🙂

      And it did end up sort of neat-looking. So not a complete waste of time.

  6. MMT February 8, 2012 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    Oh my, laughing so hard just from the intro. I haven’t had a fish stick in years!

    • RetroRuth February 10, 2012 at 10:52 am - Reply

      Hooray! Glad you liked it.

      Hmmm…maybe you should run out and try some. Don’t forget to smother them in corn muffin mix! 🙂

  7. Rachel Dale February 8, 2012 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    As someone who normally eats spicy (german-style) mustard on battered fish, loves pickles, and actually owns a cornstick pan, this sounds AWESOME. I can not wait to try it! I know the mustard on fish thing might sound odd, but I can honestly say I inherited the taste from my mom since she got me started doing that.
    I bet using the cornstick pan would make them a little less “surprise-y” since you would have way less cornbread to the other stuff ratio.
    P.S. Came across this blog a few months ago when somebody had a link to the pork cake entry. I am hooked! (on the blog, not on the pork cake, BLEGH) 🙂

    • RetroRuth February 10, 2012 at 10:54 am - Reply

      Ha ha! Yeah, the pork cake was really something, wasn’t it??? Ugh!

      Brown mustard sounds fine on battered fish – it is plain yellow mustard that I am scared of! 🙂

      Oh, and if you recreate this, let us know how it went or send me a pic!

  8. Erica February 8, 2012 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    Sausage in cornbread, I can imagine (and have seen in a few vintage recipes). Fishsticks in cornbread? Bleargh.

    And the pickle just seems like adding insult to injury 😀

    • RetroRuth February 10, 2012 at 10:55 am - Reply

      Yeah, cornbread and pickles was NOT a winning combo!

  9. nickarmadillo February 9, 2012 at 11:34 am - Reply

    This looks like something that I might enjoy, though, like you said, it might go better with a sweet bread & butter pickle. All that breading looks like it would go down better with a bit of dipping sauce as well.

    My grandma used to have one of those corn husk shaped molds. I wonder where it’s run off to.

    • RetroRuth February 10, 2012 at 10:55 am - Reply

      Yeah, I think bread and butter pickles would totally be the way to go this one. And I think there was some sort of dipping sauce mentioned in passing in the recipe.

  10. Jeff February 9, 2012 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    Um…where is the mushroom sauce? How can you have magic without the mushroom sauce? Seriously, I demand you retest with mushroom sauce. Every sentence needs to have the words “mushroom sauce” in it. Seriously, mushroom sauce.

    • RetroRuth February 10, 2012 at 10:57 am - Reply

      I know what you mean!!! I read the end of the recipe and I thought, “What mushroom sauce? What the heck are they yammering about now? As if this wasn’t crazy enough to begin with!”

      Mushroom sauce.

  11. Jen February 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    I am laughing my arse off. First Richard Simmons laying naked in a bed of vegetables and now this hysterical pic of your man eating that corn muffin/fish stick/pickle thing.

    I may have to go and change my diaper….

    • RetroRuth February 12, 2012 at 4:43 pm - Reply

      Glad you liked it, Jen! It will make Tom feel better knowing he didn’t have to choke down those fish sticks for nothing… 🙂

  12. Househubbie August 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    These actually look pretty tasty to me. I put pickles on my fishstick sandwiches, along with good ol’ American Cheese. That’s what this recipe needs, American Cheese! (I realize how objectively gross this all sounds)

    Buut, yes. Bread & Butter pickle slices and some American Cheese, tartar sauce on the side. Super!

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