This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
Sea-fish of the smooth-skinned sort. "Schools" of porpoises sportin shallow water near the shore and sometimes in advance of a vessel for days at a time. They are captured for their oil.
"The new delicacy in favor beyond the Atlantic is porpoise steak. The world is overhauling its menu, and hunting up new dishes. Some one has suddenly thought of the porpoise, or, as the Americans call it, the sea-hog, and the result is a flesh-food described as exquisitely tender and tasty, with a grain as red and juicy as the best cut in a fillet-steak or sirloin. In flavor the porpoise resembles venison, and we are pretty sure to hear of it in London before long. If it is as good as reported, it should certainly take its place on the menus of marine hotels".
"According to a Transatlantic paper, the flesh of the porpoise is sold in Philadelphia as a substitute for beef, under the name of 'dolphin meat.' It is described as red, juicy, tender, fine-grained, and of very pleasant flavor." - "In the fifteenth century porpoises were brought whole to table, and were eaten with mustard".
An ancient bill of fare found in the British museum mentions among the courses of a grand dinner "Porpoise with Peas" and "Porpoise Roasted on the Coals." There is a record of Henry III ordering the sheriffs of London to purchase for him 100 pieces of the best whale, and two porpoises. Henry VIII gave occasion for some witticisms by his fondness for this archtype of obesity; if it was too large for a horse-load, an extra allowance was made to the purveyor. In Norway a delicate caviare has been made from its eggs.