Red herring in the common English mode

You may have seen my post about red herring… not the idiom in common English, but the nineteenth century description of kippers. Eliza Acton  was born in 1799 and was a forerunner to the more famous Isabella Beeton, and her book ‘Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management’; Miss Acton wrote ‘Modern Cookery’ which was published in 1845, fourteen years before Mrs Beeton.

I guess most of us would just have kippers cooked and on a plate with bread and butter – and cooked by frying, grilling, heating in water,or these days micro-waving. In those days, the heavily smoked and dried herring had to be ‘treated’ before it was ready to be eaten. So here is Eliza’s receipt:

Red herring, common English mode

This fish is rendered infinitely more delicate by pouring boiling water on it before it is dressed, and leaving it to soak for half an hour, or more should it be highly dried. The fresh Yarmouth bloaters do not require this. Cut off the heads and tails, open the herring at the back, and warm through before the fire, or upon a gridiron. They may be rubbed with a bit of cold butter, and seasoned with a slight sprinkling of pepper or cayenne, when these are liked, or served quite plain.


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