More on Fish Flour

Hans Staden, landsknecht in Portuguese service and prisoner of the Tupinamba in the 1550s, made some interesting observations about the foodways of his captors. We saw a reference to fire-dried, ground fish in the last post on cassava. Here, he goes into a little more detail as he discusses fisheries and seasonal migration:

Various Native Americans cooking and fighting, engraving by Theodore de Bry to accompany Staden’s account courtesy of wikimedia commons

Also those far from the sea often come here, catch many fish, roast them dry, pound them and make flour of them which they dry well so that it may last long. They take it home and eat root flour (cassava) with it. For if they were to carry home roasted fish, they would not last long because they do not salt them. Also the flour can be packed better than whole roasted fish. … They also make flour of fish and meat, they do it thus, they roast the meat or fish above the fire in the smoke and let it become all dry. Then they pluck it apart and still dry it once again over the fire in vessels which they baked for that purpose called Yneppaun. Then they pound it small in a wooden mortar and searce it through a sieve, that lasts very long. For they have no custom of salting fish or meat. Such flour they then eat with the root flour and it tastes quite good.

As with cassava and the boucan technique of slow-roasting meat and fish on a raised platform over a small fire, we have confirmation of this from Jean de Lery, another European who spent time among Native Americans on the Brazilian Atlantic coast. Jean-Baptiste Labat also describes this practice among the inhabitants of the Antilles. I am really curious how that worked and tasted by now. De Lery describes the dimensions of a boucan quite precisely, I may try to build one next summer.

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