ARE FISHCAKES OBSOLETE #11 FROM AL BEZANSON
From my sailing mate Jay Irwin … “When I was a kid in Baltimore in the early days of WW2 my grandparents had a little corner grocery that sold coddies. I think they were three cents. Every day the coddie truck delivered a tray and set it on the counter. A dish of yellow mustard and a stick to spread it sat on the tray. A towel was draped over to keep the flies off. Our store sold saltines to go along with the coddies. During Lent the Sisters of Mercy for the Poor and our Lutheran church both did a brisk business selling coddies made by volunteers.”
From Julie Rothman, for The Baltimore Sun…….Baltimore coddies, not to be confused with codfish cakes, are hand-formed, slightly flattened potato cakes flavored with salt cod and other seasonings and then deep-fried. They are traditionally served at room temperature, sandwiched between two saltine crackers with a dollop of yellow mustard. Sometimes referred to as the poor man’s crab cake, this uniquely Baltimore food could be found at neighborhood soda fountains and delis all over town beginning in early 1920s.
As local historian Gilbert Sandler recounts in his book “Glimpses of Jewish Baltimore,” “The coddie’s origins are vague, but the way the descendants of the Louis Cohen family tell the story, it was grandfather Louis Cohen’s wife, Fannie Jacobson Cohen, who created the coddie as we know it.” Sandler further explains that according to Louis Cohen’s granddaughter, Elaine Cohen Alpert, her grandparents were just barely earning a living from the small stall they ran in the old Belair Market where they sold sandwiches, cookies, and candy. They were searching for a new product, something no one else would have, to attract new customers and set them apart.
Not long after, the Baltimore coddie was born. The Cohens sold the first coddies at their stall inside the market for 5 cents each. Word spread before long, and the coddies became extremely popular — so much so that the Cohen family opened a small manufacturing plant and were the first to mass-produce and market the product. From the 1920s to the early 1970s, Cohen’s Coddie trucks were delivering the coddies all over Baltimore.