This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Take a Whiting, half a pint of milk, half an ounce of fresh butter, and one quarter of an ounce of flour, with salt to taste. Place the fish in a small pie-dish, and pour over it the milk; cover closely, and bake in a slow oven for about twenty minutes; when the flesh leaves the bones readily it is done; then place the fish in a hot dish; knead the butter and flour together in a basin, and add to them the milk in which the fish has been cooked; pour into a saucepan, and boil for five minutes, stirring all the time; serve hot.
Concerning the fried fish of the Jews, their representative modern author of fiction, I. Zangwill, writes: "Fried fish! but such fried fish! Only a great poet might sing the praises of the national dish! and the golden age of Hebrew poetry is, alas, over." "Israel is among other nations as the heart is among the limbs," so sang the great Jehuda Haller. "Even thus is the fried fish of Judaea to the fried fish of Christendom, and heathendom!" With the audacity of true culinary genius Jewish fried fish is always served cold; the skin is of a beautiful brown, and the substance firm, and succulent; the very bones thereof are full of marrow, yea, and charged with memories of the happy past. Fried fish binds Judaea more than all the lip professions of unity. Its savour is early known of youth, and the divine flavour endeared by a thousand recollections, entwined with the most sacred associations, draws back the hoary sinner into the paths of piety. It is mayhap on fried fish the Jewish matron grows fat. Moreover, there is "gefullite fisck," a delicious thing in Jewish cookery, or fish stuffed without bones; but fried fish reigns above all in cold unquestioned sovereignty; no other people possesses the recipe.
As a poet of the century's commencement has sung: -
"The Christians are ninnies: they can't fry Dutch plaice; Believe me, they can't tell a Carp from a Dace".
Izaak Walton "advised anglers to be patient, and to forbear swearing, lest they be heard of the finny tribe, and catch no fish." Concerning whom Leigh Hunt wrote (1830): "Angling does indeed seem the next thing to dreaming. It dispenses with locomotion, reconciles contradictions, and renders the very countenance null, and void. A friend of ours who is an admirer of Walton was struck, just as we were, with the likeness of the old angler's face to a fish. It is hard, angular, and of no expression; it seems to have been a thing ' subdued to what it worked in,' - to have become native to the watery element. One might have said to Walton, ' Oh, flesh, flesh, how art thou fishified!' He looked like a Pike dressed in broadcloth instead of butter".
"A pretty kettle of fish" is a familiar phrase as applied to any muddled, or mismanaged concern, the " kettle of fish " being actually a sort of stew well known in Scotland as fish and sauce, generally made from Haddocks. Said Alice (Through the Looking Glass) :-
"I took a kettle, large and new,
Fit for the deed I had to do; My heart went hop, my heart went thump,
I filled the kettle at the pump. Then someone came to me and said,
' The little fishes are in bed.' I said to him, I said it plain,
' Then you must wake them up again.' "
It is of essential requirement that all fish before being eaten should be raised in temperature somehow (by cooking, for choice) to a degree at which all germs of an animal, or a vegetable nature, which may be within, or upon the fish, shall be killed. This rule must be enforced with regard to fish as rigorously as to veal, and pork, in each case for similar reasons; for it has been proved that several varieties of fish harbour in their flesh the young forms of certain parasites, which, if they escape death by the process of cooking, and are eaten by man, develop within his intestinal tract into the adult form of the parasite, and cause serious illness, with a long-continued disturbance of health. All fish therefore (except some shell-fish) must be cooked for the above reason, as well as to make it palatable, in some way before it will be eatable; and of all modes of cooking, to boil the fish is easiest, and most certain in effect. Whenever sea-water from the open sea is available for boiling fish it should be preferred to water artificially salted, this mode of cooking being known as "a l' Hollandaise." Fish cannot be too fresh for kitchen purposes; the Dutch are as nice about this point at the present day, as the Romans were formerly.