Fish – Healthy, Tasty, Easy and Quick to Cook.


Fish is slowly but surely becoming one of the main protein sources of the North American diet. Generally, meat, mainly beef, has been traditionally popular because of the English preference of this intensely flavoured source of protein.

In the past twenty years researchers have conclusively proved that fish constitutes a healthier diet than beef, pork, and lamb and shown a direct relationship between fish consumption and longevity.

Even today, fatty fish like salmon is considered to be healthy because of its high omega3 fat content as opposed to saturated animal fat full of LDL (low density cholesterol).

Mediterranean and Japanese people have always known fish, more precisely, seafood in general, to be healthy and consumed large quantities. Now that north Americans and north Europeans have also started to increase their fish consumption the world’s oceans can no longer support the relentless chasing of even small schools of fish. Sophisticated Sonar equipped fishing boats scour oceans and fish species to extinction. Specially designed factory boats are deployed to process fish caught by trawlers, and store them for months before landing their catch.

Overfishing diminishes fish stocks, and so entrepreneurs embarked on fish farming seizing an opportunity to make money.

Today, well over 25 percent of all fish consumed is farm raised. The first fish farmers were Norwegian who took advantage of their fjords with clean water and good circulation to carry away debris created by salmon. Canadian entrepreneurs on the Atlantic Cost embarked upon fish farming specializing in salmon, oysters, mussels. Eventually British Colombians capitalists started to invest in fish farming.

The U S A has many fish farms both on the Pacific Coast and southern states that specialize in cat fish.

Chile in South America boasts many salmon farms, Ecuador is home to shrimp farms.
Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Vietnam, China, Laos, Cambodia and other nations in the Far East grow and export significant quantities of farmed fish and shellfish.

Armenia, a landlocked country in the Caucasus, has at least seven fish farms that produce trout and sturgeon.

Farmed fish

must be fed with specially formulated feed, and much of the formula consists of ground fish caught in third world countries depriving the poor population from an important protein source.

There is no comparison between the taste of wild and farmed fish. Wild fish tastes better if consumed shortly after the catch, i.e within hours. In fact this is the reason why coastal communities from antiquity to present relied and still relies on fish. The sea functioned and still does as the “refrigerator”. Now, however, fish flows where the fishermen maximize their income which means exporting to rich, western industrialized countries.

Chilean and Norwegian farmed salmon are readily available in Toronto, so are Spanish farmed turbot and other species.

Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia export vast quantities of seafood to the
U S A, and before Christmas plane loads of lobsters go to France to enrich the tables of wealth Parisians gourmets.

When buying fish,

look for whole, gutted fish, with clear, bright, bulging eyes, glistening skin and firm flesh.

Try to stay away from filleted, frozen fish that has been processed on factory boats and frozen. They may be poorly processed and packaged.

After purchasing seafood of the refrigerate same in the coldest part of the refregirator and cover with clean damp cloths.

To avoid cross contamination, use separate cutting boards, and wash knives after each use with cold water.

Measure the thickest part of the fish and allow for each 2 1/2 cm., 10 minutes cooking time. You can also cook until the thin part of the fish is cooked and then finish cooking in a hot oven to avoid overcooking.

Mercury occurs in fish naturally and increases with size and over a lifetime. Swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tile fish contain the highest levels of mercury, should be avoided by pregnant women and consumed in moderation by all.

Modern Mediterranean populations love fish and restaurants in coastal cities feature seafood. Although the majority of people living in coastal regions prefer fish over meat, costs have increased significantly, and fish, once the poor man’s meat escalated becoming now a luxury food.

Romans have always liked to eat fish and the empire encouraged fish trade between all the Mediterranean cities it occupied and administered. Although the Catholic Church once imposed fasting days when fish replaced meat, but these restrictions have been abolished and now people are free to eat what they like. Many Catholics even today cook fish on Fridays just for the sake of tradition and occasionally also for frugality, if prices are lower than meat. Italians living close to the Mediterranean still prefer to eat fish when they can afford it.

Romans of antiquity ate very simple, consuming a frugal diet of vegetables and pulses. As people started to settle and farming, their diet expanded to include grain, eggs and chicken. The shepherds provided meat. Pork was valued for its versatility.

Fish appeared much later on the table. In the Roman Empire, particularly in Rome the river Tiber was the main source of fresh fish. When Carthage, located on the north African coast of the Mediterranean, became a serious threat, the Empire needed a fleet and soon the galleys were pressed into service for trade with the ports under Roman administration. Vast quantities of fish were shipped sometimes packed on compressed snow and occasionally alive in seawater for the tables of rich Romans and for stocking the rivers, lakes and ponds from as far away as the Danube and the Black Sea.

Towards the end of the Empire the traditional austere values and harsh discipline had been forgotten and the rich were enjoying a life of unbridled hedonism. Some had built in their villas fish ponds to ensure a constant supply of fresh fish, which were often regarded as pets and hand fed. Roman philosopher and politician Cicero railed against the senators wasting time with their fish ponds instead of attempting to curb Emperor Julius Caesar’s power, while he ordered 6,000 moray eels from a breeder for a victory banquet.

Before the craze for fish, patricians were often given the name of a country where they had won military honours. Scipio Africanus, for example, was the name given to the general who defeated Hannibal. Then dignitaries started to take the name of their preferred fish, such as Consul Sergius Orata (gilt-head bream) and fourth century emperor Licinius Murena (moray eel).

Over time and under the leadership of many emperors the passion for fish escalated. The fourth and fifth floors of Trajan’s market in Rome housed tanks for fresh- and seawater fish: the epicure Lucllus had invested a fortune in his fishfarm. The red mullet (triglia) became the most prized fish and they were often brought alive to the table to fascinate guests as they changed colours in the process of dying. Certainly cruel by today’s standards, but this still goes in the kitchens of thousands of restaurants specializing in live fish.

In Rome it was fashionable to breed huge fish and in his fourth satire of Satire on the Vices of the Roman World, writer Juvenal ridicules this excess, describing the emperor Domitian being presented with a superb turbot (rombo). Domitian is supposed to have called a council meeting to decide how to cook it and then ordered the production of a special plate to display the prized fish.

Romans were also gluttons for shellfish. The first oyster farm was created on the coast at Baia and these quickly multiplied. Sea dates, datteri in Italian, were consumed in large quantities, despite their illegality. (Datteri burrow into the rocks under the sea and their removal damages the sea bed.). Man has been abusing seas in all parts of the world for millenia. Today taking them is strictly prohibited but some unprincipled cooks still serve plates of spaghetti con datteri to their best patrons.

A putrid-smelling sauce made with decaying fish intestines, the infamous garum, dominated Roman cooking. It is mentioned frequently in De Re Coquinaria, a collection of Roman recipes attributed to patrician gourmet Apicius, who lived in the second century AD. Luckily it is now a thing of the past.

When the barbarians invaded Rome, its culinary culture was gradually lost mainly due to poor economics and lack of gourmets willing to splurge in fine and refined food. Hordes from the north swarmed down through Italy and pestilence and constant battles changed the face of civilized Italy. Life as Roman citizens knew was lost and the Dark Ages forced them to struggle for mere survival. Once again people had to scratch a poor living from the land eating humble game and food from uncultivated fields.

By the Middle Ages things were better and in Rome the Vatican had imposed some order in the sprawling city. The Church had established 120 compulsory fast days a year when meat was forbidden. Fish, as a protein source, became very important. In those days the Tiber River was teeming with fish including trout, pike, eels, salmon and sturgeon. Preserved and salted cod, like baccalau, became very popular. Eels were considered a great delicacy and Dante assigned a place in purgatory for Pope Martin IV (who reigned from 1281 to 1285), a glutton famous for roasting eels that had been drowned in wine.

Although some fish was sold in the entrance to the Pantheon, an imposing building even today, but the main fish market for Rome was established in the Portico d’Ottavia near the Ghetto. The Guild of Fishmongers drew up strict regulations. Fishmongers agreed to suspend sales between July and September for health reasons. Fishmongers were forbidden to play dice on the stones or fish slabs to prevent cross contamination. Fish had to be transported in special baskets, with the tail protruding, as fish were priced by length, not weight. Sturgeon longer than 120 centimeters could not be sold whole.

Toronto’s fishmongers offer a great selection albeit all must be transported over long distances from the Atlantic Coast and often flown in from Mediterranean countries including Greece, Portugal and Spain.

Van Horne Fish 416 288 9286
Osler Fish Market 416 769 2010
Central Fish 416 763 1151 specializes in smoked fish
Newport Fish 416 537 1278

Hrayr Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?

Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.


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