Monday, November 23, 2009

Adventures in didactic cooking: Grimsby edition

Today, the historical bycatch series takes a more literal turn.

Recently, I finally ran across something I'd wanted to post for a while but had misplaced. (Three words to describe the interior of our house: Stacks. Of. Paper.)

While scanning through the 1929 Daily Herald earlier this year, I had happened upon an ad promoting the consumption of fish.

Maybe not the most immediately exciting of topics; still, it has its charms.

Daily Herald, 9 June 1929, p. 3. (Click for larger image)

The advert is interesting for all kinds of reasons.

First, I like the way it puts its audience decisively in its place: 'Can you fry fish? Most people can't. If you feel you've got anything to learn, read on.'

What follows is actually quite informative. It tells you something useful about how to fry fish. I mean, I'm guessing here, not being that accomplished with cooking fish myself; but it certainly sounds like practical, sound advice: 'If your fish is not properly dried it will be watery inside. If your fat is not properly hot instead of your fish frying to a golden crispness it will be soggy and greasy.'

And who, after all, wants their fish to be soggy and greasy, hm?

The ad was part of a promotional campaign, according to the small type, by the Grimsby-based British Trawlers' Federation.

And, as I searched further through that summer of 1929, I found that 'Can you fry fish?' was part of a series:

Daily Herald, 2 July 1929, p. 5.

Again, there's the rather hectoring tone, with all its 'musts', 'must nots' and 'oughts' to which the modern consumer is just not accustomed:

'You must drain your fish properly. Press every atom of water out.'

Somehow, I find myself afraid of disappointing the friendly-yet-somehow-intimidating woman in the white apron with her accusing stare and many handily available sharp implements.

In any case, the series reached a thrilling climax in its third and (as far as I could tell) final episode:

Daily Herald, 16 July 1929, p. 3

Maybe after all the challenges of frying and boiling, the Trawlers' Federation decided to take it easier on people: 'Steaming requires no attention and cannot fail to be successful.'

Certainly a relief.

And it seems they have expanded the availability of useful recipes, which can now be had for free from 'leading fishmongers.'

'Fishmonger' is an excellent word, one heard all too seldom these days.

I wonder how successful the ads were. I assume they appeared in other papers. The Herald at this time was owned by the TUC, and these ads seem tailored to appeal to working-class readers (more specifically working-class women).

Interestingly: not a word here about chips, the essential accompaniment to any fishy feast. Of course, from the trawlers' perspective, the potato farmers were on their own.

Happy cooking. I hope you've all learned something.


mikeovswinton said...

Can you Fry fish? Why bother when there's a chippy dah'nt lane, just near where I tied up my whippet and lost mi cloth cap. (By the way, in my pre-vegan days, Fish and chips with 'chippy curry sauce' was what I had for saturday supper every week for about 10 years. Match of the Day on the box, small boys in the park playing football, jumpers for goal posts, the abiding images of the british winter. Bet you didn't get Chippy curry sauce in germany or Illinois.)

Mademoiselle Catherine said...

Marvelous! Now I know how to do it :D

There's going to be fish on Christmas I guess...