Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Writing Wednesdays #3: Something Fishy...

A cold and blustery weekend, with ice (and 12" of snow last Thursday & Friday), made for a good "indoors" weekend... so I returned to one of my favorite families, Hans Dreper and Maritie Pieters. Maritie had a reputation for "petty quarreling." [1] She also said what was on her mind, and apparently didn't candy coat her opinions either - a tendency that occasionally placed her in a courtroom. So pigs weren't the only thing that gave Hans and Maritie headaches... on at least one occasion, fish did too!

Maritie evidently had been shopping for herring on a warm spring day (plankton eaters, herrings tend to be plentiful in the cool northern waters from May through August, a time when they are high in fat yet before mating season... the herring were caught in nets and and salt bine-cured in large barrels, sometimes with the addition of spices - the exact recipes were, of course, secret...). With different recipes for curing herring, obviously, herring purchased from one vender or another might be more or less to a given individual's liking.

Maritie found some herring she didn't like. As a result, she allegedly cast aspersions on the quality of herring sold by one Albert Alberzen. So she was hauled into court on May 21, 1661 (evidently Maritie refused to pay for the herrings, believing them to be substandard). Maryken Gerrits (wife of Frans Janse Van Hooghte) testified that on May 16, Madhdalena Hansen had come to visit at her home, as had Maritie. Maryken Gerrits stated that while there, Maritie had made a disparaging remark about the herring sold by Albert Alberzen. Magdalena confirmed that Maritie had criticized Alberzen's herring. And the exchange evidently was witnessed by Jan Gouwen Bergh and Johannes Verveelen as well.

Three days later, Hans Dreper produced two different affidavits to the effect that Albert Alberzen knew that the herrings he sold to Maritie were no good. Alberzen countered that he sold the herrings “indifferently as to their quality” (evidently making no warranties - let the buyer beware). Instead of passing judgement in the court proper, the Burgomasters and Schepens asked Maritie and Alberzen if they would submit their claim to them, not as judges, but as arbitrators, and the two agreed. After weighing the claims of Maritie and Alberzen, the Burgomasters and Schepens decided that Hans Dreper should pay Albert Albersen twenty-seven guilders for the herrings in question.[2]

One wonders if Maritie's reputation for petty quarreling might have biased the decision or not... Which, of course, brings me to a recipe for fish (not herring). Again, this is an "un" recipe in that it is a general guideline that gives choices - and almost always turns out good!

UN-Recipe for Fish
  • Take some fish steaks (thawed), salmon, tuna, shark etc - use steaks instead of filets so they are even thickness. 
  • Spread generously with "goop" and roll in "sprinkles" (more about this in a minute) - press the sprinkles in so that they stick. 
  • Bake in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes per inch of thickness - you can turn it over halfway - your choice. You can also use frozen fish steaks and add 10 - 15 minutes to the cooking time. 

OK, the idea here is to pick something goopy you like - I use lemon or lime curd (found with jelly), pesto, salsa, whole grain mustard, honey or maple syrup (watch that it doesn't burn) - this is the glue that makes the sprinkles stick. Sprinkles can be toasted and finely chopped nuts of your choice (I really like pine nuts), toasted mustard seed, black sesame seeds, finely chopped shallots, cracked pepper corns (green and pink ones are nice), etc. The "rule" if any, is that stronger flavored fish goes with stronger flavored goop and sprinkles... be creative and enjoy!

[1]Scandinavian Immigrants in New York 1630 -1674, John O. Evjen, 1916, Appendix III: Some Scandinavian Immigrants in New York in the Eighteenth Century & List of German Immigrants in New York 1630 -1674, page 408.
[2]Records of New Amsterdam from 1653-1674 and Index, by New York (N.Y.). Burgomasters and Schepens, 1658: volume III, pp 309.

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