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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 7, Issue 2, 2010

On The Use Of Fish — As Food

page 13

On The Use Of Fish
As Food

“There is a communication, without signature, in the New Zealand Gazette of the 18th of May, suggested by the fact, ‘That a Mr. Butler and his family had been suddenly attacked with some alarming symptoms which they, or the medical attendant (we should like to know which), had, it would seem, attributed to the use of the hapuka’s liver as food.’;

We suppose that the writer is acquainted with the subject on which he writes, and therefore give, for the information of our readers, whatever is important. As an extract it would be unnecessarily long. In the first place, the flesh of fishes‘

Is by no means suited to all stomachs, and that, at certain seasons, all fish become positively unwholesome and totally unfit for use.’

Next —

‘Fish, slightly tainted, may be injurious, more especially to those who are not in the habit of its daily use. Thus fish, when hung up and exposed to the influence of moonlight, becomes positively poisonous, arising, as it appears to us, from the rapid decomposition which takes place during such exposure.’

Then we have a rule —

‘A good general rule is to allow the fish to lie a night in salt, which, should the flesh be in the slightest degree tending to putrescence, will not conceal the fact, and the consumer can readily judge by the peculiar softening and livid colour which it presents, that the flesh is not fit for food.’

We call particular attention to what follows, as the principle of gradual accustoming appears to us to be a very important one —

‘Now, it is just possible that, in the course of a few years, the European may acquire the habit of digesting a slice of the whale’s blubber, cooked or not, just as it may happen; but I think few would feel inclined to try his stomach’s powers of digestion, even after a residence of two or three years in New Zealand, upon such questionable fare.”