Mullets, Jumping into the Stream of Life

The Gulf of Mexico lies 60 miles southwest of here. A joy to behold on a clear day, no matter what time of the year, the water there sparkles with the intensity of a stash of De Beers diamonds. And the wetlands that lacing its edges harbor a most fascinating array of life, gems, if…

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The Food of Florida: A Grand and Ongoing Experiment

I didn’t know it then, but when I was much – heck, I’ll be really honest here and say a lot –  younger, I began participating in a grand social experiment, one that I understand more with each passing year. Given my nature, the experiment naturally involved food. And that experiment began with a road…

The Power and the Glories of Eating Alone

King Louis XIV did it. M. F. K. Fisher did it. The faceless man in Edward Hopper’s painting, “Nighthawks,” did it. Mr. Bean did it, too. And so did I. Daring to eat a proper meal alone in public probably ranks as one of the few acts that cause normally confident people to quiver a…

From Mother Russia with Love: A Fish in Every Pie

The kulebyaka should be appetizing, shameless in its nakedness, a temptation to sin. ~~ Anton Chekov, "The Siren" Fish dishes abound in Russian cuisine, in large part because of the Russian Orthodox Church’s strict rules on fasting during Lent other times of the year. But we cannot ignore the simple fact that fish thrive in…

Exploring the Delicacies of Indonesia, in the Shadows of the Volcanoes

CYNTHIA D. BERTELSEN | Special to The Roanoke Times Sunday, September 29, 2013   At the fish market, the man in black hoisted a bucket of fish to his well-muscled shoulders and strained to keep from slipping on the algae-covered steps. Picking his way out of the churning water, he plunked the bucket down and grabbed…

Journeys versus Destinations: Initial Comments on a Sojourn in Indonesia

I too for years have been stirred by the sight of a solitary cloud drifting with the wind to ceaseless thoughts of roaming. ~ Matsuo Basho, The Narrow Road to Oku I cannot forget his face. Soaked with sea water and sweat, grimacing with the physical effort of his daily labor, the lines telling of…

The Little Fish with Big Taste: The Much-Maligned Anchovy and its Cousins

When I finally discovered that anchovies (Engraulis encrasicolus) weren’t just for crappy pizzas anymore, I was pretty long in the tooth, so to speak. It took me a long time to even dare to add anchovies to the food I cooked. In that, I am not unlike other cooks over the centuries: What if I…

An Ancient Mediterranean Taste: France’s Boutargue

The Egyptians who fled to Marseille from Egypt after the Napoleonic debacle there  (1801) brought with them a hankering for batarekh, now called boutargue or poutargue in Provençal. Happily, Marseille happened to be a place where they could find batarekh, a caviar-like product made from the pressed and dried roes of grey mullets (Mugil cephalus).…

Salt of Earth, Crucible of Life

Just a pinch, and the primal sea surges, memories filling your mouth. Weep, and you'll know what fish first knew. Bleed, and you'll smell the earth. Sweat, and you'll sense ancient waters flowing. Building block of blood, sweat, and tears.  Salt, not sugar, primeval taste. Ancient, this elixir. The essence of legends, myths, stories. Pillars…

Cooking with Saint-Pierre (John Dory)

As it fell on a holy-day, And vpon an holy-tide-a, Iohn Dory bought him an ambling nag, To Paris for to ride-a.* ~~ Child Ballad #284A: "John Dory" I first met John Dory at the open-air fish market in Rabat, Morocco. He's a solitary soul. Doesn't hang out too much with his own kind. And…

From Mother Russia with Love: A Fish in Every Pie

The kulebyaka should be appetizing, shameless in its nakedness, a temptation to sin. ~~ Anton Chekov, "The Siren" Fish dishes abound in Russian cuisine, in large part because of the Russian Orthodox Church’s strict rules on fasting during Lent other times of the year. But we cannot ignore the simple fact that fish thrive in…

Cooking Fish — Let Us Count the World’s Ways: Africa

It's Lent. That means fish to a lot of people, even today, despite the relaxed rules of the Church. But how to cook fish? How to get past Mrs. Gorton's Fish Sticks? Many, many ways. Let's look at what people around the world do to get fish from the seas, rivers, and lakes from their…

Mrs. Sherman G. Bonney on Lent and Fish

Lent used to be a far more widespread concept in American society than one might think. As Mark Kurlansky made clear in his book, Cod: A Biography of a Fish That Changed the World (1997), cod overfishing led to some radical changes, including Canada's moratorium on cod fishing in 1992. Dan Murphy of Dunville, Newfoundland…

A Bloody Fish Story

The price of fish is something nice -- for fishmongers through the centuries, that is. And over the years, observers noted the rise and fall in the cost of fish according to the liturgical season and changes in the rules of the Roman Catholic Church.* Because of the price of fish, or even the mere…

Tuna: More Than Just a Canned Wonder

Definition: tunny large sea-fish of the mackerel order, 1530, probably from M.Fr. thon (14c.), from O.Prov. ton, from L. thunnus "a tuna, tunny," from Gk. thynnos "a tuna, tunny," possibly in the literal sense of "darter," from thynein: "dart along." Aunt Ellen took the green can and pried it open with one of those old-fashioned…

Holy Mackerel!

Mackerel scales and mares' tails Make lofty ships carry low sails. ‑Old Sailors' Rain Warning‑ (Due to family obligations for a few weeks, I'm posting some previous posts that I've dusted off and updated. ) Alas, the poor mackerel!  A sky resembling its scales bodes rains. An unfriendly person is "cold as a mackerel". "Dead…

Being Catty: Hey, Did You Know That Catfish Tastes OK?

(Due to family obligations for a few weeks, I'm posting some previous posts that I've dusted off and updated. ) Well, it's not "National Catfish Month," not yet. You have to wait for August for that. But there's no time like the present for dreaming of summer. Some people hate the cloying texture of these…

Can You Stomach It?

A continuation of our fascination with fish stomachs ... The following fish tale comes from Elie Hunt, a member of the Kwakuitl Nation of British Columbia. Her husband, George Hunt, translated her account into English between 1908 and 1914. A relatively rare example of oral history, worth sharing. (I'll confess that my visceral reaction to…

Fish Stomachs?????

Fish Stomachs???? You might believe that fishcakes, along with fritters and croquettes, began as members of the thrifty Leftovers family. But in fact, early medieval English cooks made fishcakes from fish stomachs, which many might consider carrying thrift just a little too far. There is actually a fishcake recipe, on page 170 of Madeleine Pelner…

Fish in the Diets of Early Modern Humans in China 40,000 Years Ago — Direct Evidence

According to Science Daily, Freshwater fish are an important part of the diet of many peoples around the world, but it has been unclear when fish became an important part of the year-round diet for early humans. A new study by an international team of researchers, including Erik Trinkaus, Ph.D., professor of anthropology in Arts…

At the Tables of the Monks: The Fish-Cooks

THE FISH-COOKS (p. 206) [Note: The Abbey paid the fish-cooks  for their services, since these people did not belong to the cloistered community.] In the large monasteries, such as, for example, Edmundsbury, there were two cooks for the fish-dishes ; the first was properly called the “fish-cook,” the other was “pittance-cook.” Their appointment was made…

Fish: Garum and Beyond

O le bi oju eja ti ehin ko le iwe. (Yoruba) : It is as hard as the eye of a (smoked) fish, which the teeth cannot break. [N.B. -- Applicable to any difficult matter.] (from Wit and Wisdom from West Africa, Richard Francis Burton) Most people who live to eat (definition: the food-obsessed) might…

Another Fish in the Sea: Mullet

Of all the nurslings of the sea, mullets have the most gentle and just disposition, harming neither each other nor any other creatures, never staining their lips with blood but...always feeding on the green seaweed. ‑‑Oppian‑‑ Ancient Greek Poet Silvery jumping mullet cause otherwise staid fishermen to jump for joy, especially now since fall passed…

Heavenly Marriages

Pancakes for dinner? If the "breakfast dinner" reigned supreme in your childhood with a barren pantry, the larder empty, the idea of pancakes for dinner comes as not as a welcoming gesture, but as a reminder of poverty. Of imagination, the pocket, the wallet. But wait ... pancakes mean more than flapjacks. Think about enchiladas,…