October 16th, 2011

How to Cook Fish; Hundreds of Simple Recipes

How to Cook Fish; Hundreds of Simple Recipes

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(The books I publish are always proof read and corrected before publishing on Kindle! David Snode) "First catch your hare," the old cookery books used to say, and hence it is proper, in a treatise devoted entirely to the cooking of Unshelled Fish, to pay passing attention to the Catching. As it is evident that the catching must, in every case precede the cooking, but not too far, the preface is the place to begin. Shell-fish are slow of movement, without guile, pitifully trusting, and very easily caught. Observe the difference between the chunk of mutton and four feet of string with which one goes crabbing, and the complicated hooks, rods, flies, and reels devoted to the capture of unshelled fish. An unshelled fish is lively and elusive past the power of words to portray, and in this lies its desirability. People will travel for two nights and a day to some spot where an unshelled fish has once been seen, taking $59.99 worth of fishing tackle, "marked down from $60.00 for to-day only," rent a canoe, hire a guide at more than human life is worth in courts of law, and work with dogged patience from gray dawn till sunset. And for what? For one small bass which could have been bought at any trustworthy market for sixty-five cents, or some poor little kitten-fish offspring of a catfish whose mother's milk is not yet dry upon its lips. Other fish who have just been weaned and are beginning to notice solid food will repeatedly take a hook too large to swallow, and be dragged into the boat, literally, by the skin of the teeth. Note the cheerful little sunfish, four inches long, which is caught first on one side of the boat and then on the other, by the patient fisherman angling off a rocky, weedy point for bass. But,"He is no true fisherman who is willing to fish only when fish are biting." The real angler will sit all day in a boat in a pouring rain, eagerly watching the point of the rod, which never for an instant swerves a half inch from the horizontal. The real angler will troll for miles with a hand line and a spinner, winding in the thirty-five dripping feet of the lure every ten minutes, to remove a weed, or "to see if she's still a-spinnin'." Vainly he hopes for the muskellunge who has just gone somewhere else, but, by the same token, the sure enough angler is ready to go out next morning, rain or shine, at sunrise. It is a habit of Unshelled Fish to be in other places, or at your place, but at another time. The guide can never understand what is wrong. Five days ago, he himself caught more bass than he could carry, at that identical rocky point. In the forty years that the guide has lived in the place, he has never known the fishing to be as poor as it is now. Why, even "old Pop Somers" has ceased to fish ! But, fish or no fish, there are compensations. Into a day of heart-breaking and soul- sickening toil, when all the world goes wrong, must sometimes come the vision of a wooded shore, with tiny dark wavelets singing softly on the rocks. Tired eyes look past the musty ledger and the letter files to a tiny sapphire lake, set in hills, with the late afternoon light streaming in glory from the far mountains beyond. Yet, when all is said and done, the catching of fish is a matter of luck, a gambler's chance, if you will have it so. The cooking, in unskilled hands, is also a lottery, but, by following the appended recipes, becomes an art to which scientific principles have been faith- fully applied. Having caught your fish, you may cook him in a thousand ways, but it is doubtful whether, even with the finest sauce, a pompano will taste half as good as the infantile muskellunge, several pounds under the legal weight, fried unskillfully in pork fat by a horny-handed woodsman, kneeling before an open fire, eighteen minutes after you had given up all hope of having fish for dinner, and had resigned yourself to the dubious prospect of salt pork, eggs, and coffee which which any s


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