Winner of the James Beard/ KitchenAid Cookbook of the Year 2000 and Winner of the Beard Award for the Best Writing on Food 2000.
August 8, 2022
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Mangia Bene

    In the Mediterranean when one mentions hake, one must talk about the Spanish. Although Spain, and Castile in particular, was similar to Sicily in the secondary importance that fish had in the diet and the economy, hake was the most popular of fish. Hake is a gadoid fish (meaning it resembles cod), except it lacks the barbel of the cod and has a long second dorsal and anal fin running from mid-body to the tail fin. Spanish fishermen have caught hake since the fourteenth century, and the Spanish fondness for hake has resulted in a great variety of preparations.

    Both the anonymous fourteenth-century Catalan cookbook Libre de sent soví and the cookbook of Robert de Nola indicate that some of the typical fish of that time were lamprey, ray, sardine, salmon, eel, moray eel, conger eel, hake, river fish, shad (sábalo), sea bass, dentex, gilt-head bream, pandora, red mullet (salmonete), meagre (corvina), star-gazer (rata), bonito, tuna, dried conger eel, salted tuna, langostino, shore crab, cuttlefish, squid, and octopus.

    Fishing off Spain was similar to elsewhere in the Mediterranean, with usually two or three men in a small lateen-rigged fishing boat. Generally, they did not cook aboard ship because they were never far from port. But as boats became safer, one does find several dishes that apparently originated on board ship, such as caldero Murciano.