Catfish fries have it all over Thanksgiving turkey as a time-honored culinary tradition!
At least as far back as the early 1700s, Americans—and surely Native Americans long before that—were enjoying “good eating” catfish.
English naturalist Mark Catesby spent 12 years exploring in the southern colonies in the 1710s and 1720s to observe, sketch, and collect the plants and animals of North America. Back in London he published The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (London, 1731-1743 [sic.]) and supplemented his etching of a catfish (vol.2, pl.23) with a lengthy description, noting:
“Some of these Fish are two Feet in Length. …they frequent both fresh and salt Waters in most of the Rivers in the Northern Parts of America; their Flesh tastes like that of an Eel, and are accounted good eating Fish… .”
To see more images from Catesby’s book, which is held in the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History, go to our Galaxy of Images, get the drop-down menu under “Explore the Collections” and click on “Search by Author/Title of Book,” and then enter his name in the search box.