February 24, 2004

Lemon: Bone-Dissolver

Know why you get lemon with your fish?

It's not flavoring.

Back in the Middle Ages, they started serving lemon with fish because you might accidentally swallow a fish bone. The lemon was meant to be ingested in such an instance in order to dissolve the bone.

I'd do a science project to test the merit of this, but I'm fresh out of lemon. And bones. Too bad I don't know any scientists.

Posted by Jennifer at February 24, 2004 02:39 PM


I've got to doubt the efficacy of this method. Stomach acids are hundreds of times more powerful than the acids in a lemon. Not that this means they didn't do it back then - we're chock full of traditions that sprang from ignorance - just that it wouldn't have made a difference to that fish bone.

Posted by: Jim at February 24, 2004 02:55 PM

I'd be more likely to believe that you swallowed the lemon slice to dislodge the fish bone: it's a size that can be swallowed without harm, it's big enough to shove anything in front of it down to the stomach where those acids can do their work, and it's resilient enough that peristalsis won't squoosh it or break it into smaller pieces.

Sort of like eating a sponge, except it's good against scurvy.

Mind you I'm just guessing, this isn't anything I actually know anything about.

Posted by: Linus at February 24, 2004 03:06 PM