SHELL FISH are acquatic animals
that are entirely or partly encased in shells. They include mollusks,
or bivalves, such as oysters, clams, and scallops, and crustaceans,
such as lobsters, crabs, and shrimp.
The popularity of the edible varieties of mollusks and crustaceans depends largely on whether they can be easily obtained and
whether they are pleasing to the local or individual taste. As they are
found in salt rivers, bays, and other shallow salt-water sources, their
greatest use is among people living near the seashore, but they are much
favored where they can be procured in edible condition.
Lobsters and crabs are usually more expensive than oysters
and clams; consequently, they are used more often to provide a delicacy
or to supply something more or less uncommon for a special meal.
Be careful when purchasing shell fish. For
instance, crabs and lobsters should be purchased alive. They are usually
shipped on ice so that they will remain in this condition for some time,
and they are displayed on ice in the markets for the same reason. Such
shell fish should be kept alive until they are plunged into boiling
water to cook.
Oysters and clams bought in the shell must also be alive
when purchased. A tightly closed shell indicates that they are alive,
whereas a slightly open shell proves that they are dead. If these two
varieties are bought out of the shells, the fish themselves should not
be accompanied by a great quantity of liquid. Considerable liquid is an
indication that the oysters or clams have been adulterated by the
addition of water. Formerly it was the custom to keep oysters in fresh
water, as the water they absorb bloats or fattens them. This practice,
however, is not popular any more.
There is considerable danger, however, in using any varieties that are
not perfectly fresh or freshly cooked. In the case of mollusks, or
bivalves, much harm has resulted from the use of those which have been
grown or bred in unsanitary surroundings. Because of these facts, it is
very important that you take great care in selecting, storing and
preparing shell fish.