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culture

Vintage Toronto Ads: Who’s Up For a Fishkabob Feast?

A fancy fried feast for fast food fiends!

Source: the Toronto Sun, August 24, 1978.

Mention the word “kabob” (or, depending on language and spelling preference, “kebab”) and the first image conjured up is a grilled treat on a skewer. The description of H. Salt’s “Fishkabob Feast” initially doesn’t stray from this image, promising a healthy-sounding mix of fish, fruits, and vegetables. It sounds like a dish that, with the proper glaze or marinade, could have been a last-ditch attempt to keep the Polynesian food craze alive. But the reality of the fast-food business quickly kicks in: it turns out the ingredients are dipped in batter, rather than grilled. Given the low price (even for the time), we’re shocked there isn’t a disclaimer that the fishkabobs are the same size as those depicted in the ad.

H. Salt Fish & Chips began in the San Francisco Bay area in 1965, when English expatriate Haddon Salt opened a chippy in Sausalito, California. To cultivate associations with his homeland, Salt donned bowler hats in his advertising, appended “Esq.” to his name, and wrapped the fish in reproductions of English newspapers. By the time he sold the chain to Kentucky Fried Chicken four years later, it had grown to 100 outlets. When asked what became of Salt in a 1981 Star profile of names behind well-known restaurants, a Canadian chain official said “Damned if I know.” Turns out Salt stayed in the seafood business. He ran a fishery in the desert east of San Diego.

While the H. Salt chain pulled out of Canada years ago and is currently limited to locations in California, a fish and chip stand bearing its name is a longstanding staple of the CNE’s Food Building. Given the fair’s obsession with artery-clogging, fried-food novelties, the “Fishkabob Feast” is ripe for a comeback in 2013.

Additional material from the March 30, 1981 edition of the Toronto Star.

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