1940s Archive

Food Flashes

Originally Published April 1944

April brings the shad's return to the Hudson. Those flapping, leaping, squirming, iridescent beauties of the herring family will be gill-trapped again by the thousands daily.

War gives the shad an extra break for its freedom. Lack of manpower, lack of equipment, waterway restrictions which push the nets back will reduce the catch, although the river will be literally teeming with fish.

The vanguard of the shad run noses into the Hudson by April or earlier, depending on the weather. Shad wait for spring before heading into freshwater rivers and to their spawning headquarters. A warm day now and then doesn't fool a shad into rushing the season. Only when ocean temperatures rise to 56 degrees and over does the run start. Shad move northward with the flood tide. They return with the ebb. They swim a little upstream when they feel so inclined. It takes almost three weeks for a shad to make the trip from the Battery to Albany, if he gets there at all, for the way is net lined. It is before the spawning that a shad is desirable; on its way back to the less perilous sea nobody is interested, for the fish is tired and flabby, and longing to lie down and swim.

Today, as in the time of George Washington and John Marshall, planked shad is the preferred dish for the gourmet. But do have your shad boned; it pays in extra eating pleasure. Wash the fish, then dry. Now broil, flesh side up, six minutes, then sprinkle with salt. Place on a pre-heated oiled plank, skin side up, and bake in a hot oven for about ten minutes. Brush the fish with melted butter. It needs nothing else. Lord Bacon was talking about philosophy, not gastronomy, when he pleaded in Latin that we should “get to know things in themselves.” But that advice might equally well be applied to the shad. There is no better fish to enjoy “just as it is,” quite unadorned by fancy sauces, for a shad carries in its juices the vigorous essence of spring.

Go to Sutton Nut Shop, 159 East 57th Street, if you want a crisp crunch of nuts now on the scarce side. There you find trays of freshly salted almonds, Brazils, cashews, filberts, too, but not salted, pistachios of Syria, pine nuts beloved by the Navajo Indians, pecans in plenty, walnuts dear to Port lovers, and plebian peanuts no end. The nut roasting is done daily in the kitchen back shop. A few moments in hot oil, a good sprinkling of salt, careful draining and drying make a nut almost greaseless. Long keepers are these nut meats; after two months they still hold their fresh-roasted flavor.

Gift packing for the armed forces in camps around the states is a feature of this nut knack counter. Tin boxes are used, these in three sizes. The biggest box carries 2¼ pounds, has seven compartments. Little box is for the 1-pound assortment.

Dried apricots are selling at B. Altman's, Fifth Avenue and 34th, but they're the old-fashioned kind, sun dried, unsulphured, packed by those few orchardists who have in the past processed their wares exclusively for the health food shops. Now these are the only apricots not reserved by the government.

Sulphured fruit is generally preferred, for numerous reasons. Sulphur prevents decay, it preserves the natural color, it discourages depredations from insects, it hastens drying, thus lessening the loss of that highly unstable vitamin C. About 85 percent of the crop is sulphur treated, the remainder packed for the food faddists who believe the sulphur treatment detrimental to health. As far as records show, there is no scientific fact sponsoring this theory. But now with dried apricots a war casualty, we all are eager to nibble of the unsulphured fruit.

These are apricots dried in the old-time manner, dried in the sun, dried until shrunken, only a hint of their original gold showing at the seed pit. But they stew up into a rich apricot flavor, and your palate approves. Wash the fruit well, soak for two hours, or until they're nicely plumped, then cook for fifteen to twenty minutes, until just tender. Almost no sugar is needed, for the fruit has a natural sweetness. The price is 84 cents a pound—quick, a price ceiling!

Don't forget the fripperies, the buckle on the shoe, the initial on the napkin. Food needs fripperies too, a truffle now and then. For truffles in 4. and 8.ounce tins go to Dussourd & Filser, 960 Madison Avenue. Prices change from week to week, moving always skyward. Here's how they stand for the present: 4 ounces brushed truffles, $3.25; 8 ounces, $5.95.

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