iPhoneOgraphy – 26 Aug 2016 (Day 239/366)
Fish are consumed as food by many species, including humans. It has been an important source of protein and other nutrients for humans throughout recorded history.
In culinary and fishery contexts, the term fish can also include shellfish, such as molluscs, crustaceans and echinoderms. English does not distinguish between fish as an animal and the food prepared from it, as it does with pig vs. pork or cow vs. beef. Some other languages do, as in the Spanish peces versus pescado. The modern English word for fish comes from the Old English word fisc (plural: fiscas) which was pronounced as it is today. English also has the term seafood, which covers fish found in the seas and oceans as well as other marine life used as food.
Fish can be prepared in a variety of ways. It can be uncooked (raw) (e.g. sashimi). It can be cured by marinating (e.g. ceviche), pickling (e.g. pickled herring), or smoking (e.g. smoked salmon). Or it can be cooked by baking, frying (e.g. fish and chips), grilling, poaching (e.g. court-bouillon), or steaming. Many of the preservation techniques used in different cultures have since become unnecessary but are still performed for their resulting taste and texture when consumed.
“Fish provides a good source of high quality protein and contains many vitamins and minerals. It may be classed as either whitefish, oily fish, or shellfish. Whitefish, such as haddock and seer, contain very little fat (usually less than 1%) whereas oily fish, such as sardines, contain between 10-25%. The latter, as a result of its high fat content, contain a range of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and essential fatty acids, all of which are vital for the healthy functioning of the body.”
Research over the past few decades has shown that the nutrients and minerals in fish, and particularly the omega-3 fatty acids found in pelagic fishes, are heart-friendly and can make improvements in brain development and reproduction. This has highlighted the role for fish in the functionality of the human body.
Religious rites and rituals regarding food also tend to classify the birds of the air and the fish of the sea separately from land-bound mammals. Sea-bound mammals are often treated as fish under religious laws – as in Jewish dietary law, which forbids the eating of cetacean meat, such as whale, dolphin or porpoise, because they are not “fish with fins and scales”; nor, as mammals, do they chew their cud and have cloven hooves, as required by Leviticus 11:9-12. Jewish (kosher) practice treat fish differently from other animal foods. The distinction between fish and “meat” is codified by the Jewish dietary law of kashrut, regarding the mixing of milk and meat, which does not forbid the mixing of milk and fish. Modern Jewish legal practice (halakha) on kashrut classifies the flesh of both mammals and birds as “meat”; fish are considered to be parve, neither meat nor a dairy food. (The preceding portion refers only to the halakha of Ashkenazi Jews, Sephardic Jews do not mix fish with dairy)
Seasonal religious prohibitions against eating meat do not usually include fish. For example, non-fish meat was forbidden during Lent and on all Fridays of the year in pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism, but fish was permitted (as were eggs). In Eastern Orthodoxy, fish is permitted on some fast days when other meat is forbidden, but stricter fast days also prohibit fish with spines, while permitting invertebrate seafood such as Shrimps and oysters, considering them “fish without blood.”
Some Buddhists and Hindus (Brahmins of West Bengal, Odisha and Saraswat Brahmins of the Konkan) abjure meat that is not fish. Muslim (halal) practice also treats fish differently from other animal foods, as it can be eaten.