26 Jun /14


Appropriately enough the word marinate appears in a personal recommendation for a cook. In a letter written by James Howell for a chef looking for a position in 1630, the great skills of the cook are described. He has international experience – but first and foremost “he can marinate fish and jellies”; he is a good hand at a hot sauce; knows a ragout, as well as a hotpot; knows how to cook mutton, beef and bacon; can put together good meals with cabbage, turnips, artichokes, potatoes and dates; and knows how to cook meat and birds. The recommendation is really a good one. It concludes that if he is no good as a cook, “you may return him from whence you had him”.

In a masterwork on fishing in 1653 (The Art of Angling) Thomas Barker writes not only how to catch fish, but also how to cook them. He has a long section on cooking trout in the English, Italian, and French way. He continues with a description of marinating so that the fish “will keep a quarter of a year in summer”, and claims that done in this way it is “the Italian’s rarest dish for fresh fish” which they “will eat perfect and sweet”. This is then followed by a long description of how the marinating process actually takes place – clean the fish, use half Bordeaux wine, half vinegar, bay leaves, saffron, mace, nutmeg and lemons. Add in a bottle of red to any book on fishing and it is bound to be a masterwork.

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