Sunday, December 12, 2010

Meals of Eels: What's for dinner during the Great Depression 1

My mother told me when she was growing up, there were weekly meals of eels! Yes, The Wills kids ate eel for dinner.  As my dad recalled, so did the Mylott kids in Waterford and on the canal.  The Champlain canal and the Hudson River must have been full of eels!

American Eel, plentiful and free when you lived near canals in New York State in the early 20th century.  The  Champlain canal ran through Cohoes, Waterford, and Schuylerville which were all towns my family lived in.  Today the American eel is in decline - see Status of the American Eel.  Getting back to the meal on hand....
I can't imagine how my grandparents prepared eel.  All the current recipes say to kill it and skin it.  The flesh is flaky and tasty.

Discussions on the internet say to cut off the head, get a gripping tool and pull the skin away from the head toward the distal end (tail) and  that it is very difficult to do!  Pan fry it or grill it and expect the eel to continue to move and slither about until it's last moments over the fire!  
I vaguely recall my mother telling me, her father, John Albert Wills, caught the eels which means it was NOT a Franco-American tradition in this household because dear old grandpa was the son of a Cornishman. Maybe in Cornwall, they eat a lot of eel too.  In Québec, there are stories of eel catching from the St Lawrence beginning with native fisherman who lived along its shores to early French pioneers to the 20th century. Kamourska,  Québec on the south shore of the St Lawrence has a long tradition of eel fishing and even has an "Eel  Interpretive Center" in the town.  Fisheries and Ocean Canada has a great web page about the American Eel and its historic and present day importance in the economy of Québec. Click here.

I am not eager to try this tradition. Thanks but no thanks, mom.

No comments:

Post a Comment