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Monday, 2 February 2015

Fish (Food)

The first recorded fish recipe (a fish salad based on marinated and spiced carp) came from China in around 1300 BC.

The Romans were passionate about fish and the best quality eels, lampreys etc were kept, transported and sold live.

The highest recorded price for an auctioned fish (two live red mullets) ever paid in Roman times was 20 000 sestertii, (about $20,000).

The wealthy Roman aristocrats used ice mixed with seaweed to keep fresh fish (they transported ice from the mountains near Rome) along with salt. They then staged lavish banquets where as many as a hundred types of fish were served.

The Romans regarded sole as their favorite cooked fish; In Rome it was known as “Solea Jovi” (Jupiter’s sandal) and it was cooked in a variety of ways including frying, roasting, stewing or steaming. Sometimes it was made into pate or soup or marinated in salt and thus preserved.

During the first century AD, cured fish was a great delicacy and there was a curing factory at Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene, on the Sea of Galilee. This raises the ironic possibility that cured fish from the Sea of Galilee may have ended up on the dining tables of the Roman elite. It maybe that Pontius Pilate or Herod ate fish caught by Jesus' disciples Peter, James and John.

Fish consumption in early medieval Europe was promoted by the Catholic Church, which ordered 166 days of fasting a year (including 40 days of strict fasting for Lent) during which fish but not meat could be eaten. Rulers usually reinforced this; for instance Charlemagne ordered that all his farms had fishponds.

In the 1600s, a group of monks in France allowed puffins to be considered fish, since their "natural habitat was as much terrestrial as aquatic," and the bird was allowed to be eaten on Fridays.

Queen Elizabeth I of England issued a law ordering her people on certain days to eat fish in order to encourage the fish industry.

In 1775 King Louis XVI of France reduced the tax on fish substantially to help the poor people and also encourage the rather lapsed observance of Lent.

Charles Dickens made an early reference to fried fish when he referred to a “fried fish warehouse” in his 1838 novel Oliver Twist.

Birds Eye sold its first fish finger in the UK on September 26, 1955 with the slogan 'no bones, no waste, no smell, no fuss.' A packet cost one shilling and eight pence.

The world record for the most fish gutted in one hour belongs to fishmonger Julian Pryke, from Greenwich, London who in 2009 gutted 362 mackerel while sitting in a bath tub in a vest, shorts and apron. That’s a fraction over one mackerel every ten seconds.

Fish semen, known as milt, is served in many cuisines. The Russians eat it pickled, the Sicilians use it as a pasta topping, and the Japanese treat it as a delicacy.

Tokyo has the world’s largest fish market handling over 2,000 tons every day.

Fugu, the flesh of the Puffer fish, contains a poison 275 times more deadly than cyanide. In Japan, more than 30 people have died since the year 2000 after eating the rare and dangerous delicacy.

A newly opened can of Swedish surströmming has one of the most putrid food smells in the world, even more so than similarly fermented fish dishes such as the Korean hongeohoe or Japanese kusaya.

Three quarters of fish caught are eaten - the rest is used to make things such as fertilizer, glue, soap and margarine.

In Chinese culture, it is customary to serve a fish whole is a symbol of prosperity. In fact, when a whole fish is served at a banquet, the head is usually positioned in the direction of the guest of honor as a sign of respect.

EU directive 2065/2001/EC rules that fish cannot be sold without identifying its species and whether it came from the sea, freshwater or a fish farm.

It is cheaper to send Scottish cod to China to be filleted and sent back again than to fillet the fish in Scotland.

Sources Catholic.orgFood For Thought by Ed Pearce

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