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|135483. Wed Jan 17, 2007 8:30 am
|Until 1922, it was still popularly believed that eels regenerated out of mud rather than reproduced. No-one could prove the theory wrong.
The theory was created by Aristotle:
|The eels come from what we call the entrails of the earth," he wrote in his Historia animalium of 350 BC. "They are found where there is much rotting matter, such as in the sea, where seaweeds accumulate, and in the rivers, at the water's edge, for there, as the sun's heat develops, it induces putrefaction." |
Pliny the Elder, meanwhile, said that eels reproduced by rubbing their bodies against rocks. The bits of skin that fell off then turned into young.
It was only when Danish oceanographer Johannes Schmidt found the European eelís spawning area in the Sargasso Sea area of the Atlantic Ocean in 1922 that the modern (yet still incomplete) understanding of eel reproduction came into place.
For further discussion of this, please go here:
The advance of science in relation to the eel has caused most concern to Jewish people.
Traditionally, eels were banned in Jewish dietary law because they do not have scales.
According to food writer Mark Kurlansky (Choice Cuts/Vintage: 2002), it was only recently discovered that eels do have scales, albeit embedded in the skin.
Orthodox Jews have handled this slippery issue by claiming that the scales must be on the surface of the skin, similar in size to 'a fingernail', and must be removable without damage to the fish.
The consumption of elvers (immature eels) is equally interesting in non-Kosher circles.
Thought to be one of the world's most undesirable dishes, elvers are much appreciated in the Basque region of the Ebro basin where they are eaten whole.
Here is the tradtional recipe for elvers al pil-pil:
1) Elvers must be alive and killed quickly by dropping them into water mixed with tobacco. The nicotine kills them.
2) When dead, the mucus that surrounds them is removed.
3) After cleaning the transparent, gelatinous elvers are boiled in salted water. The heat turns them black/white.
4) The elvers are submerged in another batch of salty water for a second cleaning.
5) Good olive oil, garlic and finely chopped red peppers are added to a casserole dish and then the elvers are added.
6) The casserole is placed on the fire until the elvers dry out and then fry.
One other QI application of the eel is a traditional Basque remedy for alcoholism.
Eel blood contains a toxic poison called ichthyotoxin. The blood is mixed with wine, and then heated to destroy the toxicity. I have yet to work out why this should assist alcoholics as my reseach has indicated that ichthyotoxin damages the kidneys. Gray - can you help here?
I note on Wiki that ichthyotoxin was also used by Charles Robert Richet in his Nobel winning research which discovered anaphylaxis (extreme allergic reactions/shocks) by injecting it into dogs and observing the effect.
Other interesting applications for eels include wallets, purses and garters that were thought (probably wrongly) by early settlers in Louisiana, USA, to remove cramps:
|One need have no fear of cramps if one always wears garters made of eel skin or places inside one's mattress a used horse shoe." |
Eel skin was also used as door hinges.
Henry III celebrated St Edward's Day in 1257 with a feast of 15,000 eels.
The Book of Eels, Tom Fort
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