12.006 Three Herrings and a Loaf of Bread


11 (Mon) January 2021

Three Herrings and a Loaf of Bread


by me

at home

-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-


Newbery 100 Medals, 100 Meals (30) (see 100 NEWBERY M&Ms)

While reading the 99 books that have been awarded the annual Newbery Medal since 1922 – leading up to the 100th winner to be announced next year – I will also attempt to create one dish for every book, a dish that is directly referenced in or indirectly inspired by the events of the book.  Food plays a strong role in many of the stories; not surprising as the characters in most of the books are faced with adversity of some sort, including poverty, so they’re often very hungry and thus grateful whenever they get a bite to eat – as we all should be at every meal, literally give us this day our daily bread.  The dishes will be featured as posts on Give Me This Day.

Good Masters!  Sweet Ladies!  Voices from a Medieval Village (2008) by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Robert Byrd.  Set in an English “manor” in 1255, the book presents a glimpse into the lives of the village’s young denizens, ranging from nobles (e.g., Hugo, the lord’s nephew) to peasants (e.g., Will, the plowboy).  Originally written by a school librarian to be performed by 5th graders, each character’s story is presented as a short monologue or a dialogue with other characters.  The book also provides historical background information.

Great concept.  In execution, however, I felt that the book kinda got in its own way towards achieving full potential.  First, most of the monologues/dialogues are written in verse – of various meters and rhyme patterns, presumably to reflect the character’s personality or social position – which can be difficult/awkward to read, not very smooth coming off the tongue of a 5th grader.  Second, the stories are mostly dark and dreary – “This is why my life sucks … ” – each one coming across as a poetic complaint, not much fun.  Many critics cite this book as an example of Newbery awarding high-brow books that adults want children to read, rather than books that children want to read.

By coincidence, the herrings were sold in packages of three; the bakery only had pre-sliced baguettes, no whole loaves.

The book doesn’t really discuss food.  Granted, the food was probably terrible in medieval England (much like modern England), at least for commoners (much like modern England): grainy breads, mushy gruels, potatoes, cabbage.  Details on how such food was prepared would’ve been interesting, if only to show good we have it these days.

[paraphrased in part]

Will: My father’s been dead for four years now, but I think of him every day.  I used to lead the ox when he plowed.  The strips of land were so small, our harvest wasn’t worth a rotten apple.  And then there was the work he had to do in the lord’s fields – the work he was paid to do.  Every day he’d bring home three herrings and a loaf of bread – but sometimes the herrings had been dead so long we couldn’t eat ’em.

Les Crâniés Aquatique Culinaire à la Corée (7) (see CULINARY AQUATIC CRANIATES A COREE)

Inspired by the fish counter at our local supermarket (see 11.229 Gwangeo Hoe), this is part of a recurring series on Give Me This Day to explore food fishes that are available in Korea and how they are prepared.

The herring below is not prepared in Korean fashion, but I’m incorporating the post into the series because I don’t see myself buying herring again anytime soon in the foreseeable future.

I filleted each fish and removed as much of the bigger bones as possible – herring, it turns out, has lots and lots of bones, including many many slivers imbedded in the flesh.
I also trimmed the soft belly flesh to leave just the primary fillets.

This was my first time working with herring.

As far as I can recall, this is my first time eating fresh herring, one previous experience with pickled herring (see 5.100 Tomatsill on Baguette Slices).

I scored the skins, brushed them with olive oil, and out them in the air-fryer at 200 degrees for 20 minutes.

At the outset, I had no plan.  The idea to air-fry the fillets was simply to get the skins crispy.  In the end, each fillet was reduced to about half its initial size, almost exactly the length of a baguette slice.  So I decided to make pinxtos.  For additional flavor, I added a swab of sun-dried tomato paste on the bread and topped the fish with jalapeño rings.

I didn’t have toothpicks.

Turned out very very well.  An excellent combination of chewy bread + tangy sun-dried tomato paste + moist and sweet herring with crispy skin (during the cooking process, the bones had turned tender enough to eat) + spicy chilies.

I might try this again with a different fish, one easier to work with, like samchi.

Anyway, I am so glad that this Newbery project pushes me to try things that I never would’ve tried if left to my own devices.


2 thoughts on “12.006 Three Herrings and a Loaf of Bread

  1. I would guess the most popular way to cook herring in Sweden is to roll the filéts (with the skin on the outside), put them in an oven form, pour over some type of sauce (for example a mix of cream and tomatopaste) and then cook it in the oven for a while. For the longest time I couldn’t eat herring, probably because I hate bones in fish and I had eaten not so well prepared herring before…. My opinion changed when I had herring that had been prepared so as to tenderize the bones so that I could easily eat them).

    There’s actually a fast food kiosk in Stockholm that serves freshly grilled herring:
    I have personally never tried it, but it is so famous it’s even mentioned in a Korean language travel guide for Scandinavia! (It used to be at the same spot for over 20 years outside the exit of Slussen subway station, but has had to move due to the ongoing total renovation and rebuilding of the area).

    1. galchi (belt fish) is a fish in Korea that is very sweet and tender, but it has a lot of bones. i used to love it because my mother or grandmother used to take all the bones out for me when i was a kid, but now i don’t eat it because i don’t want to bother with the bones….

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