Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/259

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round the sun. It may have here been exposed to a mechanical influence, which broke it into two parts, and it is quite possible that many other breakings may have taken place, reducing it to fragments so small as not to be visible, except as falling meteors.



Those fish are most digestible which have least of the oily element in their composition. Rich or fatty fish are apt to disturb the stomach, and prove stimulant to the general system. Thirst and an uneasy feeling are frequently produced by them, and it is this, doubtless, that has led to the practice of drinking spirits with this class of food. Hence, the proverb, "Brandy is the Latin for fish." It is well, therefore, in selecting fish, to choose those that cook dry, and are freest from oily matter. The sooner a fish is cooked, after being taken from the water, the better it will be. There is a popular notion that, like butchers' meat, fish is improved by being kept awhile before it is fitted for the table. This is a mistake. There is a white curdy matter, plainly visible between the flakes of freshly-boiled fish, which adds much to the flavor, and is highly nutritious. This is really a film of albumen, produced by the coagulation of the serous juices, contained in the muscles. If the fish is kept long before cooking, a large share of this is lost, and the flavor of the fish correspondingly impaired. Fishermen themselves say that fish, taken directly from the net to the kettle, are as different, in flavor and nourishing properties, from fish one, two, or three days old, such as are purchased in our markets, as "chalk is from cheese."

By drying, salting, smoking, and pickling, the digestibility of fish is greatly injured, though in some cases its savory and nutritive properties may be improved. The flesh of fish is more digestible boiled than fried, and for invalids should always be cooked in this way. That of the male fish is in most cases better eating than that of the female and, in either case, it is at its greatest perfection for food at the period of the ripening of the milt or roe. After spawning-time fish appear to get out of condition, their flesh becomes soft and flabby, loses flavor has a bluish semi-transparent look after cooking, and eaten thus is sometimes productive of much evil.

If lobsters and crabs are fresh, well cooked, and eaten in reasonable quantity, they agree with most stomachs, though less digestible than fish. They sometimes, however, produce violent colic, nausea, giddiness, depression, and nettle-rash; these effects depending upon some peculiar susceptibility of particular persons. Lobsters are frequently sold insufficiently boiled, and in this state are not nearly so wholesome as when thoroughly cooked.

Of all bivalves that are eaten, oysters are the most easily digested, and the most nutritious; and they are more digestible raw than cooked. Cooking coagulates and hardens the albumen, and corrugates the fibrine, causing both to be less easily dissolved by the juices of the stomach. Raw oysters rarely disagree even with invalids or dyspeptics. Persons of a gouty habit, however, particularly if they have dyspepsia, are sometimes violently disordered by them; and they have been known to bring on convulsions when eaten by women soon after confinement.

Many of the sauces eaten with fish are very indigestible compositions, and often the fish itself is charged with ill-effects which are solely due to the sauce. Oyster-sauce is too often made so badly, that both sauce and oysters are unfit for food.

Fish is less satisfying to the appetite than meat, poultry, or game, and, as it contains a larger proportion of water, is obviously less nourishing. On the other hand, many persons pass through the season of Lent on a diet composed almost wholly of fish, without apparent diminution of strength; and whole villages may be found on the coast, where fish almost entirely takes the place of butchers' meat, the inhabitants at the same time being noted for their health and vigor.



In the healthy human adult, the body being at rest, and the temperature of the surrounding atmosphere about 60° Fahr., the average temperature in the axilla is 98.4°, in the rectum 99.4° and that under the tongue is intermediate, or about 98.9°. The