12.120 Fireless Fish


5 (Wed) May 2021

Fireless Fish


by me

at home

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

with the Family, LSH + YYH

Newbery 100 Medals, 100 Meals (47) (see 100 NEWBERY M&Ms)

While reading the 100 books that have been awarded the annual Newbery Medal since 1922, 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 (i.e., give us this day our daily bread).  The dishes will be featured as posts on Give Me This Day.

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (1923) by Hugh Lofting.  The book is about John Dolittle, an English naturalist who can speak to various animals in their own languages – as narrated by young Tommy Stubbins, his apprentice.  When Dolittle learns of the disappearance of his friend and fellow naturalist Long Arrow, an Indian from the island of Spider Monkey off the coast of Brazil, he sets sail to find him, encountering many adventures along the way.  The book is the second in a long series of publications (1920-1952) concerning Dolittle.

It was okayish.  I suppose that younger readers in the 1920s were entertained by the stories, though I suspect that younger readers of today would find them somewhat corny.  Nevertheless, Doctor Dolittle is arguably the most famous if not the only famous character to have emerged from the Newbery line, ostensibly due to the various movies that have been made about him.

One critical problem with the book, and likely others in the series, is the racist portrayal of peoples from other lands, sometimes subtle, sometimes outright.  Dolittle’s entourage includes Bumpo Kahbooboo, Crown Prince of Jolliginki, an African man who is fashionably dressed yet does not wear shoes, who is of royal descent and yet serves tea to Dolittle.  The Indians on Spider Monkey are raucous, ignorant savages who come to worship Dolittle and make him their king.  This 1988 edition of the book includes an afterwards by the author’s son, who explains that the republication of the books involved a process of revising/deleting certain offensive parts and illustrations, which he believes that his father would’ve approved because he would never have wanted his books to offend anyone.  I wince to imagine how awful the portrayals were before the clean-up.

Would’ve preferred snapper, but this was the only white fish available; I haggled it down to 29,000 won for the pair.

Spoiler alert: Dolittle rescues Long Arrow.

[paraphrased in part]

A feast of fish and fruit had been prepared.  Long Arrow invited us to sit down and eat.  This we were glad enough to do, as we were all hungry.  But we were both surprised and disappointed when we found that the fish had not been cooked.  The Indians did not seem to think tis extraordinary in the least, but went ahead and gobbling the fish with much relish the way it was, raw.

With many apologies, the Doctor explained to Long Arrow that if they had no objection we would prefer our fish cooked.

Imagine our astonishment when we found that the great Long Arrow, so learned in the natural sciences, did not know what the word “cooked” meant!  These people have no fires!  This is a fireless people.

When the book was published in 1922, the idea of eating raw fish would’ve seemed barbaric to most Westerners, though someone as supposedly well-traveled as Dolittle probably would’ve encountered it before among other coastal cultures.

After 2 hours in lime juice.

Ceviche seemed like just the thing: a South American dish comprising raw fish, cooked without fire.

Recipes on the internet could not seem to agree on anything, from the types of fish and other ingredients to be included, to the length of marination.

The few dishes that I’ve experienced in restaurants also suggest a wide variety of styles, some simple (see for example 9.280 Classic Ceviche), some ornate (see for example 3.323 Cebiche Mixto).

I went with 300 grams of flatfish (gwangeo) + 1 cup lime juice (8 limes), marinated for 2 hours then drained, tossed with 1 onion + 1 green chili + 3 plum tomatoes + 1 avocado + 1 bunch cilantro + sea salt + fresh black pepper, served with tortilla chips.

It was good.  Delicate yet punchy, though I should’ve used a spicier green chili for more heat.  Light yet substantive, especially with the avocado.  I’ll definitely make this again.

(See also FOODS)

(See also PLACES)

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