food from the sea, e.g. fish, shrimp, crab, mussel, seaweed

Seafood is any form of sea life regarded as food by humans, prominently including fish and shellfish. Shellfish include various species of molluscs (e.g., bivalve molluscs such as clams, oysters, and mussels).

Fruit of the sea
What Cat’s averse to fish?
  —Thomas Gray

Quotes edit

  • On the third day of his fasting
    By the lake he sat and pondered,
    By the still, transparent water;
    Saw the sturgeon, Nahma, leaping,
    Scattering drops like beads of wampum,
    Saw the yellow perch, the Sahwa,
    Like a sunbeam in the water,
    Saw the pike, the Maskenozha,
    And the herring, Okahahwis,
    And the Shawgashee, the craw-fish!
    “Master of Life!” he cried, desponding,
    “Must our lives depend on these things?”
  • How unfavourably this hotch-potch compares with the Marseillese bouillabaisse! But what can be expected, considering its ingredients? Green and golden scales, and dorsal fins embellished with elaborate rococo designs, will satisfy neither a hungry man nor an epicure, and if Neapolitans pay untold sums for the showy Mediterranean sea-spawn, it only proves that they eat with their eyes, like children who prefer tawdry sweets to good ones. They have colour and shape, these fish of the inland sea, but not taste; their flesh is either flabby and slimy and full of bones in unauthorised places, or else they have no flesh at all—heads like Burmese dragons but no bodies attached to them; or bodies of flattened construction on the magnum in parvo principle, allowing of barely room for a sheet of paper between their skin and ribs; or a finless serpentine framework, with long-slit eyes that leer at you while you endeavour to scratch a morsel off the reptilian anatomy.
    There is not a cod, or turbot, or whiting, or salmon, or herring in the two thousand miles between Gibraltar and Jerusalem; or if there is, it never comes out; its haddocks (haddocks, indeed!) taste as if they had fed on mouldy sea-weed and died from the effects of it; its lobsters have no claws; its oysters are bearded like pards; and as for its soles—I have yet to see one that measures more than five inches round the waist. The fact is, there is hardly a fish in the Mediterranean worth eating and therefore: ex nihilo nihil fit. Bouillabaisse is only good because cooked by the French, who, if they cared to try, could produce an excellent and nutritious substitute out of cigar-stumps and empty matchboxes. But even as a Turk is furious with a tender chicken because it cheats him out of the pleasure of masticating, so the Neapolitan would throw a boneless zuppa di pesce out of the window: the spitting and sputtering is half the fun.

A Commonplace Book of Cookery edit

Quotes reported in: Robert Grabhorn, ed., A Commonplace Book of Cookery (North Point Press, 1985), pp. 97–106
  • These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat. And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you.
    • Leviticus, xi, 9–10
  • We’ll sport and be free with Moll, Betty, and Dolly,
    Have oysters and lobsters to cure melancholy:
    Fish-dinners will make a lass spring like a flea,
        Dame Venus, love’s lady,
        Was born of the sea; ...
    • Thomas Jordan, "Coronemus nos Rosis antequam marcescant"
    • Variants: 1. "kiss" for "sport", "Frank, Betty, and Dolly" or "Nan, Betty, and Philly"; 2. "lobsters and oysters", "maids by the belly"; 3. "man" for "lass"
  • Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day,
    Teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.
    • Chinese proverb
  • Nor is it enough to sweep up fish from the expensive stall, not knowing which are better with sauce, and which, if broiled, will tempt the tired guest to raise himself once more upon his elbow.
  • With the audacity of true culinary genius, fried fish is always served cold.
    • Israel Zangwill, Children of the Ghetto (1892)
  • Fish must swim thrice—once in water, a second time in the sauce, and third time in wine in the stomach.
  • Very well. But what sense tells you whether this pike gasping here was caught in the Tiber or in the sea, whether in the eddies between the bridges or just at the mouth of the mouth of the Tuscan river? You foolish fellow, you praise a three-pound mullet, which you must needs cut up into single portions. 'Tis the look, I see, that takes you. When then detest a very long pike? It is, of course, because nature has made the pike large, and the mullet light of weight. Only a stomach that seldom feels hunger scorns things common.
    • Horace, Satires
  • Across the Bridge began the vegetable and fruit market, where whole Hollands of cabbage and Spains of onions opened on the view, with every other succulent and toothsome growth; and beyond this we entered the glory of Rialto, the fish-market, which is now more lavishly supplied than at any other season. It was picturesque and full of gorgeous color for the fish of Venice seem all to catch the rainbow hues of the lagoon. There is a certain kind of red mullet, called triglia, which is as rich and tender in its dyes as if it had never swam in water less glorious than that which crimsons under October sunsets. But a fish-market, even at Rialto, with fishermen in scarlet caps and triglie in sunset splendors, is only a fish-market after all: it is wet and slimy under foot, and the innumerable gigantic eels, writhing everywhere, set the soul asquirm, and soon-sated curiosity slides willingly away.
  • Though a man eats fish till his guts crack, yet if he eat no flesh he fasts.
    • John Taylor, Jack-a-Lent (1617)
  • What an idiot is man to believe that abstaining from flesh, and eating fish, which is so much more delicate and delicious, constitutes fasting.
  • A man may eat fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.
  • This piece of cod passes all understanding.
    • Sir Edwin Lutyens. Attributed remark in restaurant
    • Cf. Philippians, iv, 7: The peace of God, which passeth all understanding
  • Bream: ... But he can still be served up as an excellent stew, provided always that he is full-grown, and has swum all his life in clear running water.
  • ... He did odd jobs on the fish docks, and he fed us fish until the bones stuck out of our ears. Comb my hair in the morning, I'd comb out a handful of bones. It got so my stomach rose and fell with the tide. Fish, fish! I was almost grown before I found out people ate anything else.
    • Charles Cassell, in J. Mitchell's McSorley's Wonderful Saloon (1943)
  • A crabbe, breke hym a-sonder in a dysshe, make ye shelle cleane and put him in the stuffe againe; tempre it with vynegre and pouder, then cover it with brede, and send it to the kytchyn to hete; than set it to your soverayne, and breke the grete clawes, and laye them in a dysshe.
    • Wynkyn de Worde, Boke of Kervynge (1508, 1513)
  • The Crab is not easily digested; it is a meate best agreeing with those that are of a cholericke temperature, and that have hot stomacks.
    • Tobias Venner, Via recta ad vitam longam (1620)
  • Among all fishes that are pleasant in taste and not wholesome, the Yeele are most in use, which, as they be engendred of the very earth, dirt and mire, without generation or Spawne, they be of a slimie substance, clammie and greatly stopping, whereby they are noysome to the voice.
    • Henry Cogan, Haven of Health (1612)
  • Of all the fish in the sea herring is king.
    • James Howell, Proverbs (1659)
  • A land with lots of herring can get along with few doctors.
    • Dutch proverb
  • And like a lobster boil'd, the morn
    From black to red began to turn.
    • Samuel Butler, Hudibras (1680)
  • Octopus: This frightfully hideous mollusc is nevertheless eaten, especially in Naples. It is boiled and served with tomato sauce, or, more often, it is boiled and then fried. We ate one, called a calmaro in Italy, and discovered that is has a remarkable resemblance to fried calf's ear.
  • Practically all the littleneck and cherrystone clams served on the half shell in New York restaurants come out of the black mud of Long Island bays. They are the saltiest, cleanest, and biggest-bellied clams in the world. ...
    He gave me one and we squatted on the deck and went to work opening the cherries. When the valves were pried apart, the rich clam liquor dribbled out. The flesh of the cherries was a delicate pink. On the cups of some of the shells were splotches of deep purple; Indians used to hack such splotches out of clamshells for wampum. Fresh from the coal-black mud and uncontaminated by ketchup or sauce, they were the best clams I have ever eaten. The mate sat on the hatch and watched us.
    "Aren't you going to have any?" I asked.
    "I wouldn't put one of those damned things in my mouth if I was perishing to death," he said, "I'm working on this buoy-boat for ten years and I'm yet to eat a clam."
    • Joseph Mitchell, McSorley's Wonderful Saloon (1943)
  • Oysters are amatory food.
  • Our oisters are generallie forborne in the foure hot moneths of the yeare, that is Maie, June, Julie, and August, which are void of the letter R.
    • William Harrison, Description of England (1577; rev. 1587)
  • Oysters are more beautiful than any religion. ... There's nothing in Christianity or Buddhism that quite matches the sympathetic unselfishness of an oyster.
    • Saki, Chronicles of Clovis (1911)
  • A loaf of bread, the Walrus said,
      Is what we chiefly need:
    Pepper and vinegar besides
      Are very good indeed—
    Now if you’re ready, Oysters, dear,
      We can begin to feed!
  • Oysters: Few among those who go to restaurants realize that the man who first opened one must have been a man of genius and a profound observer.
    • Brillat-Savarin, Physiologie du Goût (1825)
  • King James was wont to say, "He was a very valiant man who first ventured on eating of oysters."
    • Thomas Fuller, Worthies of England (1662)
  • It is more useful, perhaps, to know my host at the Blue Boar in Picadilly died of eating too many oysters, than how Marshall Turenne was killed in the trenches.
    • Elizabeth Montagu, to Lord Lyttelton
  • Let's sing a song of glory to Themistocles O'Shea,
    Who ate a dozen oysters on the second day of May.
    • Stoddard King, The Man Who Dared
  • He [Bismarck] also confesses a weakness for fried oysters; this, in my opinion, is treason to gastronomy.
    • Jules Hoche, Bismarck at Home (1888)
  • Lady S. They say oysters are a cruel meat, because we eat them alive; then they are an uncharitable meat for we leave nothing to the poor; and they are an ungodly meat because we never say grace.
  • As for oysters to which the Parisians are so partial, a great difference is made between those which arrive by boat and those which come by stage. These last which are distributed in baskets from the place of their unloading, from time immemorial in the Rue Montorgueil, are always fresher and more delicate.
    The usual way oysters are eaten is raw before the soup. Many people doubt that they can be served any other way and, at the most, permit them to be seasoned with a pinch of pepper and the juice of a slice of lemon. What would they say when they learn that there are more than twenty ways of dress-ing them? ...
    They are, as we have already noted, the usual, and in some ways, obligatory, preface to a winter lunch. But it is a preface which often happens to come very expensive, because of the guests lack of discretion, who swallow them into their stomachs by the hundreds because of their silly vain, self-love. An enjoyment doubly insipid, in that they bring no real pleasure and often distress a worthy Amphitrion. It is proven by experience that, above five or six dozen, oysters certainly cease to be a pleasure.
    • Grimod de la Reyniere, Almanach des Gourmands (1803)
  • Oysters: Nobody eats them any more; too expensive.
  • Once taste porpoise, and all other foods will be insipid.
    • Chinese proverb
  • Porpoises are indeed to this day considered fine eating. The meat is made into balls about the size of billiard balls, and being well seasoned and spiced might be taken for turtle-balls or veal balls. The old monks of Dumferline were very fond of them. They had a great porpoise grant from the crown.
  • The common or harbour Porpoise of the North Atlantic and Pacific was once considered a delicacy in this country, as are other Cetaceans in other lands at the present day. It formed a royal dish even so recently as the time of Henry VIII. The sauce recommended by Dr. Caius for the "fish" was made of crumbs of fine bread, vinegar and sugar. Considered to be a fish, it was allowed to be eaten on fast days.
    • Frank B. Beddard, A Book of Whales (1900)
  • The British bar-shrimp was brought upon its finger of damp toast, from its circular glassware.
    • Percy Wyndam Lewis, The Apes of God (1930)
    • Variant: "glass-case"

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