I’ve always found it difficult to tell one fish from another on the fishmongers slab. I know some varieties because I’ve caught them personally, salmon, brown and rainbow trout, mackerel, pike, bream, and perch, plus a few I’ve bought fresh such as sole and plaice. Otherwise, I’m an ignoramus when it comes to the game of “Name That Fish!”
And, of course, that makes it doubly difficult to buy fresh fish in France, because if you don’t know the name of the fish in English you’re certainly not going to know it in French. So there they are, these nice looking freshly caught fish, beautifully arranged on the marble slabs in the fish market in Etaples, and I haven’t got a clue what they are.
What do you do if you have a recipe in English for a fish called wrasse, for instance, but you don’t know the French word, and you don’t know what it looks like either?
Fortunately I’ve discovered a really useful internet resource that lists the French name of every fish you can imagine, and, at a click, gives the name of the same fish in several other languages, including English and the official Latin name.
Thus I can now tell you that Alose Savoureuse or Alosa sapidissima as we pedants call it, is otherwise known in English as American shad, common shad, Connecticut river shad, shad alose or white shad. In other words I think I can safely say it’s Shad.
Likewise, a lieu jaune is Pollachius pollachius, known in English as green pollack, lythe, or just pollack.
The source of this information is an Icelandic (of course) website. Fortunately the nice Icelanders have translated their site into English, so go to the Icelandic Marine Research Institute site, click on “French”, and look down the alphabetical list to find the French name of your mystery fish. Click on it to find its English name (or Latin, Danish, Russian, Spanish, etc.).
Simple – Oh!, except that you have to remember English in Icelandic is “Enska”
You learn something new everyday!