Ceviche (1939) & Escabeche (1898)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Thu Sep 11 23:49:56 UTC 2003


   From THE GREAT CEVICHE BOOK (Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2003) by Douglas Rodrguez, pg. 3:

   Don't confuse ceviche with escabeche, a similar marinated fish dish (also made with chicken, vegetables, and game) that includes citrus and vinegar and sometimes pickling spices for a sweet and sour taste.  The most obvious difference between fish escabeche and ceviche is that the fish in escabeche is sauteed before marinating, although it is still traditionally served cold or at room temperature.  In my opnion, both ceviche and escabeche evolved out of the same ancient necessity to preserve food with an acidic sauce.
   Ceviche is by no means a new culinary creation.  Variations of the dish have actually been around for centuries in many Central and South American countries.  In Peru, the Quechua highlanders of Inca times originally made ceviche-like dishes with only jewels from the sea, chiles, salt, and herbs.

   The word wizards of Merriam-Webster's 11th have "seviche" from the ancient times of 1951.
   There aren't a whole lot on English language cookbooks for South America before 1950.  There is THE SOUTH AMERICAN GENTLEMAN'S COMPANION (1951) by Charles H. Baker, Jr.
   The best for our purposes is THE SOUTH AMERICAN COOK BOOK (1939) by the Browns.  It's noted on page 333 that "the only South American contribution of this sort we've come across" is this OCLC WORLDCAT book title:

The American cook-book:
El libro de cocina Americano. Recipes collected and edited by The Association of American Women of Chile.
 Corp Author: Association of American Women of Chile.
Publication: Santiago, Chile, "LeBlanc", 1939

   We'll beat the Browns on every term--including ceviche--but we word wizards should do no worse than 1939.

by Cora, Rose and Bob Brown
New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co.

Pg. 17:
   Lay thin fillets of any very delicate fish on a platter side by side.  Cover with juice of freshly squeezed limes, being careful to remove all lime pits.  Let stand away from dust at least 6-7 hours until lime juice has completely tendered fish.
   When fish is ready peel 1 large, firm ripe tomato.  Split crosswise and flick out seeds, then chop rather fine with very sharp knife.  Remove seeds and veins from 1 green pepper and chop.  Remove seeds and veins from 1 red sweet pepper and chop (or substitute 1 canned pimiento).  Mix tomato and peppers, adding 3/4 cup chopped white onion, 1 teaspoon minced parsley, 1 well-crushed garlic clove (which may be removed afterward) and 1 well-minced chili pepper (or 1-2 dashes Tabasco).  Add vinegar until mixture is semiliquid.  Season with salt, pepper and a very little sugar.  Drain fish fillets thoroughly.  Put them on platter and spread mixture over them.
   Served as a first course for luncheon, this freshly and delicately pickled fish is much better than any you'll find in the delicatessen store.


   I have a 1770 citation in the ADS-L archives, but this is always useful, just in case that great food dictionary (the OED) wants to add it.

        From The Baltimore Sun..       New York Times  (1857-Current file).       New York, N.Y.: Dec 26, 1898.                   p. 8 (1 page)
         Escabeche is fish, usually the large mero, sliced, salted, fried in oil, and laid several hours before being served in a sauce sufficient to cover the fish, and made of one-half part of vinegar and one part of olive oil, adding several laurel leaves, half a dozen slices of garlic, and a pinch of pepper.   It is eaten cold and will keep, well covered in a stone jar, for weeks.
        Sancocho is the representative dish of the island. (...)

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