The Turbot, Brill, Sole, Halibut, Plaice, Flounder, Dab and Hake, are all of the same family, and are excellent for food. "Their form is very deep, but, at the same time, very thin, and they are not constituted to swim as other fishes do, with their backs uppermost; but, lying on one side. They reside wholly at the bottom, shuffling along by waving their flattened bodies, fringed with the dorsal and anal fins, and as they are somewhat sluggish in their movements, they need concealment from their enemies. This is afforded them by the side which is uppermost being of a dusky brown hue, resembling the mud on which they rest; and so conscious are they where their safety lies, that they do not seek to escape by flight when alarmed, but sink to the bottom and lie perfectly motionless." If the eyes were placed, as in all other creatures, one on each side of the head, it is plain that flat-fish, habitually grovelling, would be deprived of the sight of one eye, which being always buried in the mud would be quite useless. To meet this difficulty, the skeleton is distorted, taking, near the head, a sudden twist to one side, and thus the two eyes are placed on the side which is kept uppermost, where both are available.
Constituent parts of 1 lb.
Flesh-formers . .
Mineral matter . .
In the plaice, the flounder and the sole they are on the right side; in the turbot and brill on the left. "The value of these fish may be estimated from the fact that London pays 80,000/. a year to the Dutch for turbot alone".
Soles keep twenty-four hours well. They cost from 1s. to 9d. per pair.
Plaice varies from 1s. to 6d. each. Dabs are valueless, and taste of mud.
The Turbot should be thick, the under part of the colour of rich cream; eyes bright, body stiff, gills of a fine clear red. It is boiled, and is excellent, when cold, made into cakes or curried. Soles are fried, boiled and filleted; plaice is best filleted and fried - it is a watery fish when boiled. Dabs and flukes are generally boiled. Turbot is very expensive - sometimes 1l. 1s. each. Brill, equally good, varies from 8s. downwards.
The Cod fish family, or Ganoids, contains the cod, the haddock, the whiting, the hake, the coal-fish, the pollach, the ling: - their flesh is very valuable for diet, both fresh, salted, or dried. The fishery of the cod is the most valuable in the world. The pursuit, the curing, and transport affording employment to thousands of people and whole fleets of ships. The value of the cod taken by British subjects on the coast of Newfoundland alone, is not less than 500,000/. annually - they are caught with a hook and line. The cod should have a small head, very thick shoulders, and a small tail.
Cod is best dressed the day after it is caught. It is boiled and served with oyster sauce; the cod, occasionally, has an oyster flavour in its flesh. It is excellent "twice laid" - i.e., served up with potatoes and hard eggs, or curried, or in fish cakes. Price generally from 1s. 6d. to 10d. per lb.
The John Dory is a rare fish, flat, and of smallish size. It is sent to London from the coasts of Cornwall and Devon, and is much prized; it is more expensive than turbot. The gurnard and piper come also from the western coasts; they have large and ugly heads defended with spears and plates of armour. They should be split and dried for twenty-four hours.
The Smelt is a small fish, of delicious flavour, resembling the cucumber. It is very expensive when first it comes in, and is used sometimes as a garnish for larger fish.
The Haddock is an excellent and delicate fish. It is delicious stuffed with veal stuffing and roasted, and delicate boiled; it is also dried and eaten for breakfast - price from 1s. to 6d. each. The Whiting is a very delicate fish, it requires to be cooked at once, as it will not keep. It is fried. The Hake is a coarse but nutritious fish, much eaten on the coast of Devonshire; it is generally stuffed and baked; very cheap; sold in slices. The Ling furnishes the ordinary salt fish.