Etymology and Mission Statement

September 16, 2009

Hound on the trail

In the 1997 edition of Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, Robert Hendrickson traces the roots of the phrase “Red Herring” back to escaping criminals in the 17th century who would “drag strong-smelling red herring across a trail to make pursuing blood-hounds lose the scent”.

The raison d’etre of this blog, however, will not be to deter seekers from their prize.  Instead, The Good Herring—a digital forum to share and expound upon my favorite food, travel, music, art and cultural experiences and observances—will aim to promote awareness of all manners of things I consider to be, in essence: good!

“OK, I get the premise, but what’s with the herring?” You might ask.  Well, modern public perception of herring here in America is, in general, poor at best.  I’d venture to bet the majority of my peers would turn their noses up at the prospect of eating one of these fine fish.  Nobody put it better than the Kipperman himself, Mike Smylie, in his book, Herring: A History of the Silver Darlings, when he said (and I paraphrase), that herring are generally considered to be the smelly, bony, unpalatable and undesirable food of the poor, a fish of necessity, the epicurean pariah of the sea.  The contradiction however, as his fine historical account explains in detail, lies in the fact that the socio-economic and cultural impact of these noble creatures on Western European and American history is palpable, and wholly positive.

Sliver Darlings

As Europe emerged from the dark ages and northern populations began to soar, herring was realized to be a plentiful (albeit highly perishable) source of food.  Once the means to curing and preserving these fish was discovered, the grand herring roll-out began in earnest.  Fishermen subsequently learned how to catch them in droves with ever increasing skill.  The booming industry employed droves of men and women.  In fact, 1-in-4 Brits were employed in the herring industry in the early 1800’s.  Herring helped sustain the poor and feed armies…it could easily be said that these tiny fish helped changed the face of European history.

All those compelling points aside, the bottom line people might be able to relate to best is that herring have a bum rap for not tasting good.  In fact, that fallacy is a ‘red herring’ in every sense of the idiom: herring are not only delicious, you’d have to look hard for a fish offering better nutritional value!

We’ll be talking more about the benefits of herring, of course, but in the meantime, let it be said that I bid you welcome and invite you to feel good about following the accounts presented here at “The Good Herring”.

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3 Responses to “Etymology and Mission Statement”

  1. burgerboy said

    cheerio, old boy. Herring, indeed!

  2. Da Haring Koning said

    Watching your grandfather eat pickled herring out of the jar conjures up some ugly, malodorous memories. But preach on uberchef; the saline bounty awaits!

  3. Joseph said

    Herring is OK and I’m sure you’re right in claiming it’s entitled to much more respect than it gets. However, I prefer chicken livers fried in butter and served with warmed red pepper jelly.

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