Salmon patties are the worst food ever. When I was 5 years old, these browned crispy flat discs made an appearance on my dinner plate every other night. They contained cheap salmon from a strangely shaped pink can. The patties had weird crunchy bits in them which I’m pretty sure were bones and a memorable fishy taste. We ate these patties with such frequency not because we loved them, but because weird salmon in a can and saltine crackers were affordable and our family of four had to eat.
Today I cannot eat a salmon patty.
That’s not a commentary on my mother’s cooking (who is a wonderful cook and makes the best food ever in case she’s reading this). It’s a commentary on how bad our situation was when I was growing up. We were a family of four with a single income earner. My mom stayed home and raised my brother and I because we couldn’t afford childcare and most of our family friends were in a similar situation. We lived in an old trailer that had an additional bedroom built on by my father on a plot of land that we rented on the cheap. We lived across the street from a junkyard/bootlegger, the vehicles we had were old (luckily my dad is a skilled mechanic). Because we were just getting by, we ate salmon patties every other day even though we were sick of them.
While my family’s financial situation was bad, it could have been much worse. My dad’s job kept the lights on, we ate every day, we stayed warm, and we stayed together. One job provided that.
When I was a teenager, my mom got a job as a sales clerk. The extra income helped to ensure that my brother and I didn’t have to work to the support our family. We both had small part-time jobs, but they weren’t essential to keeping our family afloat. Instead our parents drove home the need for a good education for our futures, even if we weren’t planning on going to college. We had time to focus on learning. We had more diverse foods in the house. A second job provided that.
If we had lived in a more affluent location, I feel that my dad would have been able to work a job that provided better benefits for less hours worked. As it was, our county was poor and we barely saw him when I was growing up. It’s a harsh price to pay, but one that he felt was needed to provide for his family.
By my parents having access to decent jobs, my brother and I were able to grow up and be kids, go to school unimpeded, and have a healthy and stable home life.
So while I hate salmon patties, I do appreciate the fact they make me thankful for my parents’ sacrifice and hard work so that our family could get by. One job provided stability. An additional job provided opportunity. It makes me sad to think that there are still others who don’t have the stability or the opportunity that good jobs provide. In Fahe’s service area, there are approximately 793,00 people unemployed. By working together and raising awareness, I hope that we can help bring more opportunity to Appalachia.