This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
A small salt-water fish of delicate flavor when fresh, and emitting an odor which has been likened to the smell of violets, and, again, to the odor of freshly-cut cucumbers. It loses this perfume in a few hours, and when shipped to western markets as it is in boxes of convenient size, like crates of fruit, it becomes a very commonplace fish by the time it reaches the consumer.
They should never be opened, but drawn by the gills and the roe left inside. The heads are left on for most of the styles of cooking. The simplest treatment is the best when the fish are fresh, and they should be merely rolled in flour and fried quickly in a kettle of hot fat.
Floured, run upon a skewer side by side, head to tail alternately, dropped into hot lard and fried; served on the skewers if silver or plated, otherwise slipped off the skewer on to a hot dish; garnished with parsley and lemons.
Smelts in Jewish style; egged, breaded fried in oil; served without sauce.