Baltimore fish market, 1907. Photo from Library of Congress.

Maryland Eats: Baltimore Coddies

07/29/2020
By Waxter Intern

A Maryland favorite with unknown origins, the Baltimore coddie, essentially a codfish cake, was ubiquitous in the city in the 50s and 60s. Made with a mixture of salt cod, potatoes, milk, and crackers, and served with mustard between two saltines, this tasty snack sold for 5 cents a pop at delis and malt shops throughout the city.

Baltimore coddie, codfish cake. Photo from Wikipedia.

Baltimore coddie, codfish cake. Photo from Wikipedia.

A number of groups in Charm City have claimed to have created the Baltimore favorite.

St. Benedict’s Catholic Church has been making them for years and notes that they are the perfect food for Lent when Catholics can’t eat meat. An elderly Pikesville resident believes her grandmother brought the recipe from Bohemia in the 1800s. An anthropologist cites their ingredients and cooking method as an indication of their African origins – cod was inexpensive and considered a low-class fish, and would often be given to slaves.

The family of Leonard Cohen, a Russian Jewish immigrant to Baltimore, asserts that Leonard’s wife, Fannie, came up with the recipe, and Leonard was the first to mass-market the coddie in the early 1900s. According to their granddaughter, Elaine Cohen Alpert, the couple was running a stall in the Bel Air Market, but they weren’t making ends meet. Leonard hoped to sell non-kosher crabcakes to make more money, but Fannie “wouldn’t have it,” so she devised the coddie instead. It became popular enough for Leonard to buy a truck to ship them throughout Baltimore. After Cohen’s Original Tasty Coddies closed in 1970, coddies became harder to find, but fans can still enjoy them at Attman’s Deli on Lombard Street, in some grocery stores, and at Lexington Market.

No matter their origins, coddies are making a comeback as one of Maryland’s favorites says Baltimore Magazine.

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