Sunday, November 05, 2006

"The seven basic ways of preparing fish"

If this image from the original (1961) edition of The New York Times Cookbook had been captioned "the basic ways of serving fish" then there would have been only four dishes: fish with lemon, fish with parsley, fish with lemon and parsley, and fish with neither lemon nor parsley. The actual description reads, "Top to bottom: baked stuffed bass, breaded haddock fillets, broiled porgy, poached salmon with Hollandaise sauce, trout meunière, sole in white wine sauce, deep-fried smelts."

Everything on that table looks good enough to eat even after more than forty years, though I'm guessing some of you would pass on the fried smelts. It's too bad that they have such a dirty, industrial name. Would they be more tempting to you if we called them something sweet and made-up, I don't know, say, tilapia?

The blustery confidence of suggesting that there are exactly seven ways of preparing fish is utterly charming. Of course fish can also be put in a soup or stew, a mousse or pâté; they can be smoked (hot or cold) or steamed. One might add "grilled" but I think "broiled" was supposed to cover that territory.

Aside from the lemons and parsley, my favorite thing in this shot is the fishnet. I especially like how the haddock plate and the Hollandaise boat are cut off to make room for it. I would like the captain's wheel better if it looked real.

Craig Claiborne, ed., The New York Times Cookbook (New York: Harper and Row, 1961), 244.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Smelt was, as I recall, a standby at WI fish fries I have known. Much eating thereof in Points North of here.

11:09 AM  
Blogger mzn said...

I see smelt at the markets around town but I've only eaten them at Fortune Chinese Restaurant. I should get out more. I don't think I've ever been north of Mequon.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Pyewacket said...

My mother always made smelts growing up. I hated them. It was like eating my goldfish. They smelled.

But she did have a little ditty that went with smelts, and only smelts:
Little fishes in the brook
Daddy caught them with a hook
Mommy fried them in a pan
And Bobby ate them like a man!

(Bobby was my brother)

2:21 PM  

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