According to Seneca, in past times the most fastidious among them would not eat fish unless it were cooked on the same day as that of its being taken, so that, as they expressed it, "there should be still a taste of the sea." Garum, the fish sauce of the ancient Romans, was made of certain fish, to be eaten with other fish. Pliny-states that garum had the flesh of shrimps originally for its basis ("garos " being the Greek name for shrimp, and "garus " the Latin name). Garum was in truth a combination from various sea-creatures - the shrimp, scomberfish, anchovy, red mullet (with its intestines, and with the roe, soft, and hard). Bisque soup, made from the Crawfish (Cancer astacus), is credited in Paris with wonderful properties as a sexual restorative. The Crayfish, or Crawfish, has been long held in medicinal repute also in England, but chiefly as providing what used to be employed as "Crabs' eyes," consisting mainly of lime, as phosphate, and carbonate. They were given powdered for acid indigestion, and heartburn. The Crawfish is found about banks of rivers, in holes, or under stones, feeding on small molluscs, and larvae.

In the French capital "le Bouillon d'Ecrevisses " is esteemed as "analeptique, anciennement recommende dans la phthisie pulmonaire, dans le lepre, et dans les affections du systeme cutane." A spirited allusion to this bouillon was made by Meslin de Saint Gelais, Chaplain to Francis the First, of France, in a poetical letter addressed to a lady: -

"Quand on est febricitant Madame on se trouve en risque, Et pour un assez longtemps. De ne jouer a la brisque. Et de mal diner, partant De ne point manger de bisque Si rude, et si faoheux risque Que je bisque en y songeant".


Shrimps, again (or Gravesend sweetmeats), when fried in their shelly coverings, are very delicious; the chitin, or horny material of the outer coat, is thus cooked to crispness; though for this effect the Shrimps must be fried just as they come from the sea, not as they are usually sold by the fishmonger after having been boiled in salted water. "Shrimps," as Robert Lovell supposed (1661), "were held to be good for sick people, and of few excrements, being of the best juyce." These "sea-flies" are caught in great abundance near Margate; the red, or beaked, Shrimp is superior to the brown, or flat-nosed species. In the South Sea Islands live Shrimps, pure, and transparent, are scattered over a salad, have vinegar dashed quickly over them, and, being caught up in a leaf, half-a-dozen of them are tossed into the mouth. Shrimps are carnivorous feeders, being of repute against consumption, and highly restorative in chicken broth.

The Sole

The Sole does not keep long, and should be eaten as fresh as possible; when in roe its flesh is insipid. The Lemon Sole is, if not really a different species, at all events inferior in kind. A well-flavoured Sole is the "Sea-partridge".

The Red Mullet

The Red Mullet, abundant on all Mediterranean coasts, and taken in the English Channel, particularly at Plymouth, is termed by some the "Woodcock of the Sea," as its trail is eaten if properly cooked. When dressed the fish should be only lightly scraped, or not scraped at all; the gills should then be pulled away, and such part of the trail as is connected with them; no other evisceration is required. The name of this fish, Mullus surmulletus, is said to be derived from mullus, the scarlet sandal, or shoe, worn by the Roman Consuls. Fishermen usually scrape off the scales with their thumb-nails immediately the mullets are caught, else the rich crimson hue invariably fades; then the bared skin becomes brilliantly red. The flesh is white, and remarkably free from fat. The flavour of the fish improves with its size, and small fish deprived of the liver are more or less insipid. The method of cooking them, by rolling in paper to prevent injuring the skin, has been observed for at least two thousand years. The Romans placed enormous value upon the Mullet, paying its weight in gold when unusually large.

Sussex boasts an Arundel Mullet, a Chichester Lobster, a Shelsey Cockle, and an Amerly Trout.


Sprats contain a large amount of oily fat, disagreeable in flavour, and quite uneatable; this causes all culinary preparations of the Sprat, except when broiled, to be unattractive, or repulsive; broiling dissipates, or volatilizes, most of the oil. The Sprat (Encrasicholus, or bitter-headed) should be decapitated, and deprived of its gall; pickled like the Anchovy it strengthens the stomach; the flesh taken before meat loosens the belly. The true Anchovy was esteemed of old as giving tone to the stomach, restoring appetite, loosening the belly, and good against agues. When these fish are salted, and placed in barrels, a little reddish ochrous earth is added to give them colour, which mineral is dangerous unless well washed off at the time of serving the Anchovies. Sprats are often supplied as sardines; naturalists do not recognize a fish called a sardine-. This term merely signifies a mode of preparation: perhaps Pilchards may be likewise employed. Pepys wrote (August 27th, 1660): "Major Hart come to me, whom I did receive with wine, and Anchovies, which made me so dry that I was ill with them all night, and was fain to have the girl rise and fetch me some drink." Dr. Kitchener tells that the Epicure Quin was superlatively pleased with the Banns of Marriage between delicate Ann Chovy, and good John Dory.

A former Yarmouth historian relates that the Dutch fishermen highly esteem the medicinal qualities of the Herring. An old saying of theirs runs to the effect, "Herrings in the land, the doctor at a stand." The fat beneath the Herring's skin, like that of the Sprat, is never of a good flavour, and ought to be extracted before the fish is eaten; this is best done by broiling the Herring. A century back Herring plasters were much in vogue. Again, a Red Herring when steeped in tar was thought to be a sovereign remedy for a cow which had lost the power of chewing the cud.

Half a century or more ago the labourers in Cornwall dined at noon, for the most part on Pilchards, and potatoes cooked in their jackets. The fish, boiled together with the potatoes, were placed on plates, but the cooked potatoes were cast in a heap on the bare table, each member of the family taking a helping, and peeling their own potatoes. Shipments of the Pilchard (Clupea pilchardus), when salted, are sent from Cornwall largely to Italy, for consumption there during Lent. These fish appear in immense numbers on the Cornish coast about the middle of July. They resemble the Herring, but are thicker, and rounder. "Fools are as like husbands as Pilchards are to Herrings." Train oil is expressed from the Pilchard's liver.

"The Perch, or Peurch, is so wholesome," says a German proverb, "that physicians allow him to be eaten by wounded men, or by men in fevers, or by women in child-bed".

The Plaice (Platepa)

The Plaice (Platepa) has ruddy spots on its surface, and a small, wry mouth. Tom Hood pretended to be angry with his wife for buying this fish when broken out into red spots; also, writing to a favourite child, he told her that having caught a Plaice spotted red he thought he had "caught the measles".

The Whiting (Merlangus)

The Whiting (Merlangus), one of the Cod family, has flesh of a pearly whiteness. "And here's a chain of Whitings' eyes for pearls." Whiting soup had at one time a notoriety for increasing the flow of breast milk with nursing mothers, but Dr. Routh gives very much the preference to Conger Eel soup in this respect. "Do you know why it is called a Whiting?" asked the Gryphon (Alice in Wonderland). "I never thought about it," said Alice. "Why, it does the boots and shoes," the Gryphon replied very solemnly. "What are your shoes done with? I mean what makes them so shiny?" Alice looked down at them, and said, "They're done with blacking, I believe." "Boots and shoes under the sea," the Gryphon went on to say in a deep voice, "are done with Whiting; now you know." "And what are they made of?" asked Alice in a tone of great curiosity. "Soles, and Eels," the Gryphon replied. "Any Shrimp could have told you that." "Merlans manges ne restent non plus dans I'estomac, que pendus a la ceinture".