Don’t do Salted Cod, but feel how good it is!

Walking around Florence, until a few decades ago, it was possible to see dark wooden barrels filled to the brim with salted cod fillets in the grocery stores and steel tanks where the water flowed in front of the shop windows, where the cod fillets are placed to desalinate. Other fish found in foodstuffs were herring, anchovies and tuna, which can also be preserved dried, in salt or in oil.

Since Florence is not a seaside city and although some “fishmongers” existed, until the sixties fresh fish was not very widespread, but cod, cheap and easily preserved, was the king of the Friday table.

For these reasons it has been one of “grandmother’s” dishes for many years and even has a typical recipe, “Florentine salted cod”, in the very famous recipe book by Pellegrino Artusi.

Cut the salted cod into pieces as large as the palm of your hand and flour them well. Then put a pan or a baking tray on the heat with a lot of oil and two or three whole, but slightly crushed, cloves of garlic. When they begin to brown, throw in the cod and brown it on both sides, removing it often so it doesn’t stick. You don’t need any salt, or at least very little after tasting it, but a pinch of pepper doesn’t hurt. Finally, pour over a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce or preserves diluted in water; let it boil a little more and serve it.

The difference between salted cod and stockfish is fundamentally linked to the preparation process of cod, the fresh fish typical of the North Atlantic. While both come from the same basic fish, the cod is obtained by salting the cod, while the stockfish is the result of air drying it.

The origin of the words themselves reveals a bit of their history. Cod” has German origins, from “bakkel-jau”, which means “salted fish”.

Stockfish” instead seems to derive from English, but it could also have Norwegian or Dutch roots, such as “stokkfisk” or “stocvisch”, both meaning “stick fish”, or from the English “stockfish”, meaning “storage fish”. “.

In addition to its importance in everyday cooking, salted cod and stockfish (dried cod) have also influenced Florentine popular language and expressions. The expression “to remain like a cod”, for example, indicates immobility and surprise in the face of an unexpected event, while “to be a stockfish” recalls the idea of remaining immobile and incapable of acting.