Some time ago somebody left commented that this recipe was Puerto Rican. Before I was able to reply, a reader left a very good comment, arguing that, with different names and slight differences in preparation, Bacalaíto (Codfish Fritters) was a pan-Caribbean recipe.
It’s good to remember that, when it comes to cooking, the wheel was invented a long time ago.
In the play Caesar and Cleopatra George Bernard Shaw put these words in Caesar’s mouth: “Pardon him, Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.” This is one of a few “famous quotes” I remember, one that has informed how I see the world. Philosopher Michel de Montaigne put it thusly: “I think there is nothing barbarous and savage in this nation, from what I have been told, except that each man calls barbarism whatever is not his own practice; for indeed it seems we have no other test of truth and reason than the example and pattern of the opinions and customs of the country we live in.”
It isn’t my intention to use this argument as an insult, provincialism is a rot that affects us all. This is just a reminder that we must keep our minds and eyes open when it comes to culture, and particularly, food culture. That which we might think unique to our culture may very well be common to others, especially when it comes to a small region with a lot of history in common. What we think is exclusively ours could be the result of cultural exchange, or could have appeared in two countries simultaneously.
To know what’s yours makes you smart; to also know others’ makes you wise.
- ½ lb of salted codfish
- ¼ cup of oil
- 3 tablespoons of milk
- A pinch of sugar
- 4 tablespoons of cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon of chopped leek (optional)
- 1 teaspoon of chopped parsley
- ½ small onion diced into very small cubes
- ¼ red pepper diced into very small cubes
- 2 eggs
- Soak the salted codfish overnight in abundant water for 3 -4 hours.
- Boil the codfish in clean water until it starts to flake.
- Change the water and soak the codfish if it is still too salty. Drain all the water.
- Flake the cod very finely.
- In a bowl mix the codfish, milk, sugar, cornstarch, leek, parsley, onion, pepper and eggs. Mix well.
- If the codfish lost all the salt in step 3 add ¼ teaspoon of salt to the mixture.
- Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.
- Pour the mixture one spoonful at a time, shaping into small cakes.
- Fry till golden brown on both sides.
- Let them rest on a paper towel for a minute to drain excess oil. Serve hot.
Originally posted Jan 2003.