It’s great that herring, the king of fishes, is at last a trending dish with top chefs (Comeback kipper: the fall and rise of Britain’s favourite breakfast fish, 4 November). Torched mackerel doth not compare.
But England’s strange opposition to herring-eating goes back to the Reformation at least – popular Protestantism was rooted less in knotty questions about transubstantiation than resentment of fasting.
The Herring Industry Board, set up in 1935, desperately tried to develop a home market, but failed. When in 1937 MPs discussed the idea of giving surplus salt herring to the poor, Walter Elliot, the then minister of agriculture, said: “You cannot feed necessitous children on raw salt herring. I can imagine nothing which would upset a child more.”
It’s a wonderful fish – fresh, salted, kippered, bloatered, bucklinged, vinegar-pickled, red, silver or golden. It would be good if England’s quota owners hadn’t sold 95% of it to the Dutch, but maybe they just couldn’t sell it here. Come on, England.
Rigby’s Encyclopaedia of the Herring
First appeared on www.theguardian.com