Ask the Past: Fish pie etiquette

I work in an open-plan office, and my desk is the closest to the tearoom. One of my coworkers keeps bringing fish pie for lunch and reheating it in the microwave. The smell is appalling. What should I do?

Surprisingly, considering we are talking about a time of uneven access to refrigeration, most old advice books are almost silent on the question of fish smells. The only logical assumptions are that either fish didn’t smell as bad then, or that everything else smelt worse and fish was the least of their worries. However, Aunt Daisy’s Book of Handy Hints has come through, as usual.

Add mustard to washing up water to remove the odour of fish.

It seems only reasonable to request your coworker swab the microwave down with a weak mustard solution after reheating their lunch.

An unpleasant odour in a room can easily be removed by burning coffee grounds in a shovel for a few minutes.

To prevent this problem cropping up in the future, though, you really need your coworker to stop bringing in fish dishes that are designed to be served hot. If they honestly can’t wait till dinner for their fish fix, perhaps this recipe from Lady Hackett’s Household Guide will be helpful.

Herrings in jelly

Take 6 herrings, clean and bone, place them in a deep dish, and sprinkle with chopped parsley and shallots. Mix 6 tablespoonfuls of stock with 2 of anchovy sauce and 1 of vinegar. Place in a saucepan with a little allspice and a seasoning of pepper, and when hot pour over the herrings, then cover the dish and bake for 20 minutes; when cold and firm the herrings are ready for serving.

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