[Ads-l] blind fish

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Tue Feb 5 17:24:36 UTC 2019

There are a couple of old Pennsylvania Dutch recipes in _As American as
Shoofly Pie: The Foodlore and Fakelore of Pennsylvania Dutch Cuisine_ by
William Woys Weaver (2013), listed as "Mock Fish (Blinde Fische)." See pp.


Immediately after that are recipes for Mock Rabbit (Blinder Haas) and Mock
Scrapple (Blinder Panhaas). Since the adjective "blinde(r)" has been used
by German speakers to mean "mock," it makes sense if "blinde fische"
referred to a Lenten fish substitute. The fried bread may have even had a
fish-like shape, according to this:

Subject: RE: Folklore: Blind Fish
From: GUEST,Monica
Date: 22 Feb 13 - 06:33 PM
My family hails from Southern Illinois. They are German and Catholic.
The secret to the whole blind fish thing is Lent. You eat fish on Fridays,
and french toast is an acceptable meatless alternative.
In the early days of this tradition, loaves of bread were more elongated,
and when dipped and fried looked very fish like. Hence, 'blind fish'.

Here are a few recipes in German for "blinder fisch." According to the
first one, the dish comes from the Westphalia/Ruhr regions of western
Germany (where a lot of German immigrants to the U.S. emigrated from).


On Tue, Feb 5, 2019 at 8:09 AM Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:

> I'm not familiar with it and don't claim to know.
> That said, here's a reply that someone else may improve.
> It goes back at least to 1922:
> https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt/search?q1=%22blind+fish%22&id=mdp.39015092851917&view=1up&seq=5
> As for internet-available guesses, I'm not sure of their utter bogosity.
> In, e.g., a meatless Lent, allowing fish, and then a step down or
> alternative "blind fish" substitute, might could happen.
> Perhaps vaguely analogous: a pin as an eyeless needle.
> Currently unreliable narrator (except that I told you I am),
> SG
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <...> on behalf of Michael J. Sheehan <...>
> Sent: Monday, February 4, 2019 1:02 PM
> To: ...
> Subject: [ADS-L] blind fish
> Blind fish seems to be a term for French toast, especially in
> German-American communities. Can someone explain the origin of the term? I
> discount a couple of bogus-sounding explanations found on the internet.
> Michael J. Sheehan

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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