Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fish Mold

I found a replica of a vintage fish mold last night at a cooking supply store called Sur La Table. I say last night because it was late, we were on a date and we ended up walking the Miracle Mile Shops in Planet Hollywood. It was in fact 11:47 pm and we had been drinking Terrazzo wine from Argentina. My teenage daughter was on the phone asking me when we'd be home, I said "oh when we're ready. Then I giggled into the cell phone and said "Oh look Lamb, it's on sale!"

Lamb is my pet name for my husband, which must be difficult at the fire department. It goes back to a day in October about 20 years ago when we drove into Las Vegas for the first time. We had been sent here by the Air Force. Our tour-of-duty choice had been Milano, Italy but we got Vegas. At the time I had been squinting out of the passenger window, the earth looked barren and roasted. I said, "it looks really dry here." My husband, a man who sails, replied, "Yes honey, we are Land Lubbers now." How the term Land Lubber became Lamb Blubber must have evolved around our Try-all-Vegas-Buffets era when we put on a bit of weight. By the time the kids came around the name was shortened to Lamb. It was one of those word evolution things that happen over time.

I handed Lamb the fish mold. He could tell it meant something to me. We passed it over to the cashier for a price check and I babbled. “You have to know what's in my heart about this fish mold. When I was a little girl our Oma (grandmother from the Netherlands) would make a Fish Mold Pudding. I just got the recipe from my Mom and I’ve been looking for a fish mold!” The cashier nodded patiently as I tried not to slosh my cappuccino on her counter.

Oma had two different molds, both were fish. I never knew what was in the pudding recipe but the flavor would sing to me, the texture would tantalize, and I learned from my cousins that you must eagerly wait for her to slice the fish off the top of the high mold and serve it to a deserving child. Slicing the fish was pomp and circumstance. There is a lot to be said for rituals, they make life interesting and moments memorable.

The fish was a sought-after
piece of pudding.

The first slice of her second mold; would it be the tail?  No the EYE! As a small child my mother always wanted the eye. Where did all this special ritual come from? I think it had to do with the war and raising kids. Oma raised her three small girls during World War II and simple things had to be made special and have delight attached to them. The fish molds were a delight. The porcelain molds have since been passed down and even now, 75 years later, the first slice is still an honorary slice in the family circle and the great grand children still squeal over it.

This past April the recipe was given to me. I cried at the sight of my mother's familiar handwritten words and felt humbled by the person who long ago had crafted this simple grain-based pudding flavored with almonds. Here it is October and I have yet to make the recipe. I couldn't before, I didn't have a fish mold.

My grandmother's fish mold was white porcelain, mine is a reproduction copper mold made in Switzerland for BIRTH-GRAMM. It's lined with silver metal, stainless steel, not aluminum. It says Massive Kupfer – Feuerverzinht. I usually call my Mom for German translations but I’m pretty sure this means something close to solid copper – heat resistant. I fell in love with it the moment I held it. It has a pleasant weight. The fish has a sweet curve and splendid fin detail. The mold was marked down on sale from $39 to $25. (yikes and gulp) I just had to have it. There are very few things I feel that way about. My Lamb bought it for my birthday present. My birthday is coming up in December.

Here's my dilemma. Ritual is important to us. I should wait until my birthday to use my fish mold shouldn't I? Yes, I could easily make the pudding as a test run while my husband is at work and gobble it down in sheer delight then wash the mold and put it back in the gift closet. But that would be deceit and gluttony, right? Not to mention that I would be depriving my beloved family of watching me enjoy a recipe of my childhood for the first time in ages. I should wait.

Recipe to follow.


  1. Very nicely written should wait!

  2. Thanks Alisa, I've been inundated with emails from friends and family to WAIT!



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