It's about time Miscellaneous got to the bottom of the truly important issues.
Anyway, here's the story of the Filet-O-Fish and when the cheese was first added (almost immediately after its invention):
After 45 years, this fish sandwich still sticks
February 26, 2007|By The Cincinnati Enquirer
CINCINNATI — Forty-five years ago, Lou Groen's career began its turn from rags to fishes.
Groen, who began his working life as a homeless teenager in the 1930s, was casting about in 1962 for a way to save his foundering hamburger restaurant.
His efforts caught more than a nibble. He created a sandwich that would eventually be consumed at a rate of 300 million a year: the McDonald's Filet-O-Fish.
Groen's restaurant was the Cincinnati area's first McDonald's. His problem: The clientele was heavily Catholic. Back then, most Catholics abstained from meat every Friday, not just during Lent, a 40-day period of repentance that began last week with Ash Wednesday.
"Frisch's [Big Boy] dominated the market, and they had a very good fish sandwich," recalled Groen, now 89.
"I was struggling. The crew was my wife, myself, and a man named George. I did repairs, swept floors, you name it. But that area was 87 percent Catholic. On Fridays we only took in about $75 a day," said Groen, a Catholic himself.
"All our customers were going to Frisch's. So I invented my fish sandwich, developed a special batter, made the tartar sauce and took it to headquarters."
That led to a wager between Groen and McDonald's chief Ray Kroc, who was preparing his own meatless alternative.
"He called his sandwich the Hula Burger," Groen said. "It was a cold bun and a slice of pineapple and that was it.
"Ray said to me, 'Well, Lou, I'm going to put your fish sandwich on [a menu] for a Friday. But I'm going to put my special sandwich on too. Whichever sells the most, that's the one we'll go with.'
"Friday came and the word came out. I won hands down. I sold 350 fish sandwiches that day. Ray never did tell me how his sandwich did."
But the chain compelled Groen to modify the fish recipe.
"I wanted halibut originally," Groen said. "I was paying $2 a pound for halibut. That sandwich cost me 30 cents apiece to make. They told me it had to sell for 25 cents. I had to fall back on Atlantic cod, a whitefish, and I added a slice of cheese. But my halibut sandwich far outshines that one."
It's a big no no among a lot of Italian chefs, restaurants, and mothers to mix seafood with cheese (not that the Filet-O-Fish compares with those meals, but just saying):
However, the oldest surviving Sicilian recipe is a fish and cheese meal, so there's that:
A little research, however, turned up the oldest surviving Sicilian recipe — from around 400 B.C. — for fish: “Gut. Discard the head, rinse, slice; add cheese and oil.”
And if you read the article, it seems as if some restaurants are breaking the no cheese on seafood tradition:
And in doing research for this very hard-hitting exposé, I think you're going to find that you're in the minority about the cheese on the Filet-O-Fish, because the vast majority of links on Google were articles and blog posts complaining about how McDonald's reduced the cheese to only half a slice.
So, there you have it. More than anyone ever needs to know about the history of the Filet-O-Fish and cheese on fish dishes.