Reference > Brewer’s Dictionary > Kettle of Fish.

 Kettle (A),Kettledrum. 
E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
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.)   1
        “The whole company go to the waterside today to eat a kettle of fish.”—Sir Walter Scott: St. Ronan’s Well, xii.

 Kettle (A),Kettledrum. 


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