I have a funny little something for you today, from the Sunday Times (Perth, WA) 23 February, 1908. Without further ado, may I give you a very Aussie recipe for mock fish? A glossary follows.
One bungarra (four feet long at least), one pint pot of bardies, six orcunya (yams), 2 lb annual saltbush leaves (scrub spinach).
Boil saltbush for three days, or as long as the log lasts.
Bake orcunya in ashes of old ridge poles for one hour.
With a handsaw cut bungarra at fourth joint from tail-tip, and at hind legs; make deep sosteen at north-east corner of brisket and take out fat, and stuff with chewed grass or cow-dung – camel will do.
Score body with axe or knife, and fill gaps with mustard and axle-grease in unequal parts.
Bend tail into an untrue lovers’ know, and fry in its own fat at coffee-stall temperature.
Strain the saltbush through a wire fence, dust some condensed willy-willy over it, adding stewed quondongs to taste.
A little naphtha and Dago restaurant sauce will lend a Peek-a-boo flavor.
Serve while the guests aren’t looking.
Then run like h----!
Flathead: one of a number of species of rather ugly but common fish in Australian estuaries. A virtuous fish in that it is cheap to buy or easy to catch, although (to my mind) not delicious, being often muddy in taste and dry in texture.
Bungarra: the sand goanna (a type of monitor lizard.)
Bardies: aka witchetty grubs, edible white wood-boring grubs, very popular amongst tribal Australian indigenous people.
Orcunya: this is a mystery. The article itself translates it as yams (which we all know is sometimes confused with the sweet potato.) This particular article is the only one that I have found with the word ‘orcunya.’ I have no idea where the word comes from.
Sosteen: this is the word as far as I can make out in the blurry newsprint; the context would suggest it means ‘cuts in.’ Perhaps a typo?
Quandong: aka ‘native peach’ or Santalum acuminatum, a desert plant and well-known bush food.
Dago: a now completely and deservedly politically incorrect ethnic slur referring to Italians.
There are other ways of making mock fish however, should you wish to do such a strange thing. Here is one of them, from Guide for nut cookery; together with a brief history of nuts and their food values (Battle Creek, Michigan, 1899) by Mrs. Almeda Lambert.
Mock Fish Stuffed and Baked.
Take 6 cups of water; 1 ½ cups of white corn grits or white corn-meal; 1 teaspoonful of salt.
When the water boils, add the salt and stir in the grits, continuing to stir until it boils; let it boil gently for a few minutes, and then place in a steam-cooker, and steam for three or four hours. Make a stuffing of 2 tablespoonfuls of zwieola, 1 tablespoonful gluten No 3, 2 tablespoonfuls pecan meal, and 1 tablespoonful peanut butter, 1 tablespoonful almond butter, 1 hard-boiled egg, ¼ teaspoonful sage, I teaspoonful grated onion, ¼ teaspoonful salt; add just a little water until the mixture makes a stiff batter. Mix thoroughly.
When the corn grits are done, oil a bake tin and put some of the cooked grits on it, spreading them in the form of a fish, making it as long as can be easily served on the platter you intend to serve it on. Then put some of the dressing the whole length of the fish. Make a little trough in the dressing, and put in the yolks of two eggs, chopped and seasoned with celery salt, then cover the egg with the dressing paste, and cover that with the cooked grits. Form more perfectly into the shape of a fish, and spread with a diluted nut butter, using the slices of the white of egg for the gills and mouth, and filberts for the eyes. Press in a row of blanched Jordan almonds down the center of the back to represent the dorsal fins, also use the almonds to make the tail. Lard it across the back (see cut) by sticking in pine-nuts. Bake in a moderate oven for half an hour; if it browns too fast on top, cover with a brown paper, until ten minutes before taking from the oven. Garnish with parsley and curled celery, bank the sides with potato balls made by cutting them from raw potatoes with a scoop made for the purpose, or make balls of mashed potatoes. Roll them in pine-nut butter and bake in the oven until nicely browned. To make the curled celery, take some nice crisp celery, split it into four parts from both ends, leaving about one inch in the center to hold it. Place it into ice-cold water for twenty minutes and it will be curled nicely. If the water is not very cold, leave it in longer.a