The Encyclopedia of Fish Cookery
by A. J. McClane
Publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston; 1st edition (1977)
ISBN 10: 0030154316
ISBN 13: 978-0030154317
This book looks all 1977. In fact, it looks all 1967, if you ask me. But looks can be deceiving. Despite the dated look of the copious photographs, this book is an authoritative overview of fish. From taxonomy of species to regional processing, to historical uses, to market availabilities, to recipes from around the world, this book is chock full of useful information. If there’s a fish that you were curious about, whether it’s something as common as salmon or as oddball as ocean pout (a type of eel), you’ll find an entry on it. You’ll learn how to shuck an oyster, make gravlox, make caviar if you have access to fresh sturgeon, and see how the Finns make crucified trout.
There are recipes and preparations from around the world that can liven up any dinner.
However, there are limitations to this book. It couldn’t anticipate the fickle nature of the culinary world. How, for instance, could it possibly anticipate tilapia becoming a trendy fish? How could it predict the overfishing of such species as sea bass?
Which beings me to another little quibble. I personally disagree with some of the characterizations, especially sea bass. How can sea bass be considered “bland”? I guess I understand where he’s coming from, since the flesh is bone white and not “meaty”, but how can the savory and buttery nature of its flesh be denied? Also, there’s no mention of Patagonian Toothfish, which is what you usually get when you order “Chilean Sea Bass”.
Despite these quibbles, this is a very useful volume for the waiter who wants to know everything he or she can about the seafood on their menu. If you have this book, you might even know more about it than your chef.
I see this book in used bookstores all of the time and I picked it up yesterday for the staggering sum of $2.00 (and a First Edition to boot!). I’ve passed up a few opportunities to buy it over the years because of the dated look (I sometimes quickly page through a book to get a feel for it, and this volume just looked a bit long-in-the-tooth). If you find it, by all means, pick it up, if only to see a picture of the salt collecting facilities in Portugal used to make salted cod.
Patagonian Toothfish (Chilean Sea Bass)