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Kettle of Fish

A fête-champêtre in which salmon is the chief dish provided. In these pic-nics, a large caldron being provided, the party select a place near a salmon river. Having thickened some water with salt to the consistency of brine, the salmon is put therein and boiled; and when fit for eating, the company partake thereof in gipsy fashion. Some think the discomfort of this sort of pic-nic gave rise to the phrase “A pretty kettle of fish.” (See Kittle Of Fish.)

“The whole company go to the waterside today to eat a kettle of fish.” —Sir Walter Scott: St. Ronan's Well, xii.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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