Thursday, March 12, 2009

“Cape Cod Turkey”

A theme seems to be developing this week in spite of myself. If you are already thinking that Cape Cod Turkey is not a big gobbling bird, you are right. It is of course, a fish.

Specifically, it was (is?) dried salt cod. Or sometimes it is baked stuffed cod. Or, very elegantly, salt cod ‘encased in a cloth between two thin fishes of the same variety.’ It may be a dish of codfish or potatoes. Occasionally it even refers to codfish cakes. I am beginning to think I’d never trust a menu in New England!

Like Albany Beef , Cape Cod Turkey represents wry humour or an ethnic slur, depending on your perspective. Cape Cod Turkey was served at Thanksgiving, in the absence of the real thing, at a time when the day to day was Salt Cod. Funny, I guess, if you weren’t the one eating a monotony of it.

Fish (especially herring) seems to have attracted the largest number of these names – and they collectively remind us of times when many varieties were cheap food for poor folk. Times before we over-fished them into absent or expensive luxuries. Times before we worried about mercury poisoning. Times before food-labelling laws and libel laws and political correctness.

For memory’s sake, we have, for example:

Billingsgate Pheasant = red herring or bloater
Norfolk Capon = red herring
Alaska Turkey = salmon
Connecticut River Pork = Shad
Alaska Turkey = Salmon.

Please feel free to add to this list - I know there are a lot more!

Codfish Balls
Take a pint bowl of codfish picked very fine, two pint bowls of whole raw peeled potatoes, sliced thickly; put them together in plenty of cold water and boil until the potatoes are thoroughly cooked; remove from the fire, and drain off all the water. Mash them with the potato masher, add a piece of butter the size of an egg, one well-beaten egg, and three spoonfuls of cream or rich milk. Flour your hands and make into balls or cakes. Put an ounce each of butter and lard into a frying pan; when hot, put in the balls and fry a nice brown. Do not freshen the fish before boiling with the potatoes. Many cooks fry them in a quantity of lard similar to boiled doughnuts.
White House Cook Book, Fanny Lemira Gillette, 1887.

Quotation for the Day.

It has always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses has it coming.
John Steinbeck


Jessica said...

Welsh Rabbit, of course!

Unknown said...

Boston Creme Pie, which, of course, is not pie at all but cake with a custard filling. ;-)

Leah said...

I just came across an article about "pork wings": "National Butchers' Week aims to help Brits learn more about the meat they eat. The poll surveyed 1000 adult meat-eaters on basic cuts of meat.

An alarming 17 percent thought that pork wings are an actual cut of meat.

Nearly twenty percent thought that tofu ribs and leg of liver were cuts of meat. As many as 23 percent thought that chicken chops or lamb drumsticks were something that you can buy from a butcher."

The Old Foodie said...

Leah - some people think that pigs have wings? is that what the survey suggests?

Anonymous said...

The cape cod turkey I grew up with was: salt cod, potatoes, turnip, salt pork and mayo - all mashed up and mixed together