Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/391

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
377
THE CHEMISTRY OF COOKERY.

depreciates the flavor, besides sacrificing some of the nutritious albumen.

To demonstrate this experimentally, take two equal slices from the same salmon, cook one according to Mrs. Beeton and other orthodox authorities by putting it into cold water, or pouring cold water over it, then heating up to the boiling-point. Cook the other slice by putting it into water nearly boiling (about 200° Fahr.), and keeping it at about 180° to 200°, but never boiling at all. Then dish up, examine, and taste. The second will be found to have retained more of its proper salmon color and flavor, the first will be paler and more like cod, or other white fish, owing to the exosmosis or oozing out of its characteristic juices.

I was surprised, and at first considerably puzzled, at what I saw of salmon-cooking in Norway. As this fish is so abundant there (two cents per pound would be regarded as a high price in the Tellemark), I naturally supposed that large experience, operating by natural selection, would have evolved the best method of cooking it, but found that, not only in the farm-houses of the interior, but at such hotels as the Victoria, in Christiania, the usual cookery was effected by cutting the fish into small pieces and soddening it in water in such wise that it came to table almost colorless, and with merely a faint suggestion of what we prize as the rich flavor of salmon. A few months' experience and a little reflection solved the problem. Salmon is so rich, and has so special a flavor, that when daily eaten it soon palls on the palate. Everybody has heard the old story of the clause in the indentures of the Aberdeen apprentices, binding the masters not to feed the boys on salmon more frequently than twice a week. If the story is not true it ought to be, for salmon every day would have the same effect as the daily breakfasts of boiled fat pork and dumplings on the voracious hero of another story.

By boiling out the rich oil of the salmon, the Norwegian reduces it nearly to the condition of codfish, concerning which I learned a curious fact from the two old Doggerbank fishermen with whom I had a long sailing-cruise from the Golden Horn to the Thames. They agreed in stating that codfish is like bread, that they and all their mates lived upon it (and sea-biscuits) day after day for months together, and never tired, while richer fish ultimately became repulsive if eaten daily. This statement was elicited by an immediate experience. We were in the Mediterranean, where the bonetta was very abundant, and every morning and evening I amused myself by spearing them from the martingale of the schooner, and so successfully that all hands (or rather mouths) were abundantly supplied with this delicious, dark-fleshed, full-blooded, and high-flavored fish. I began by making three meals a day on it, and at the end of about a week was glad to return to the ordinary ship's fare of salt-junk and chickens.

This is not exactly a digression, seeing that the philosophy of the