Salt Cod

salt cod with parsnipsI was so excited to see a small wooden box of salt cod fillets at a supermarket a few weeks ago. I had no idea what to do with it but knew I’d find recipes in 18th-century cookbooks, since cod was ubiquitous in colonial times.

Enormous cod populations were what first drew Europeans to America, according to Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World.  As Francis Higginson, the first minister of Salem, Massachusetts, wrote in 1630:

The aboundance of Sea-Fish are almost beyond beleeving, and sure I whould scarce have beleeved it except I had seene it with mine owns eyes. Continue reading

Fried Trout

fried trout

My brothers and I used to fish for trout when we visited our grandparents in the Poconos, in Pennsylvania. If my siblings read this, they’ll insist that they were fishing and I was merely watching. It’s true that after a few years I started feeling sorry for the fish and didn’t want to catch them anymore. (This didn’t stop me from eating them.)

Trout frying hasn’t changed a huge amount since colonial times. Here’s a 1753 recipe from The Ladies’ Companion, reprinted in The Williamsburg Art of Cookery:

“You must, with a Knife, gently scrape off all the Slime from your Fish, wash them in Salt and Water, gut them, and wipe them very clean with a Linnen Cloth; that done, strew Flour over them, and fry them in sweet Butter, till they are brown and crisp; then take them out of the Frying-pan, and lay them on a Pewter Dish, well-heated before the Fire…. Continue reading