Friday, July 1, 2011

Cod by Kurlansky

I just couldn't put down Cod: A Biography of a Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky. This book is not just about the bottom-dwelling cold water fish with the flaky flesh that is popular in dishes from the Caribbean to Scandinavia, but it is also a book of human history, the fishing industry, and the anthropology of food! Filled with mouth-watering recipes (and some that readers may find repulsive) Kurlansky explains how cod fueled the slave triangle, fed Lenten diets in Spain for centuries, were secretly hunted by the Basques, fueled Vikings on their discovery of America, shaped Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Glouscester, Marblehead, and Cape Cod. Did you know there were three "Cod Wars" between British and Iceland? Okay, the wars were not officially declared, and there were no casualties, but at points bullets were fired, boats rammed, and trawling nets cut.

After reading this book, I am convinced that the cod has greatly impacted human history, but even more so have humans shaped the history of cod. At risk of giving away the ending, I will say that the conclusion is rather sad. The disappearance of the mighty cod is a harbinger and symbol of the ecological fate of our oceans. This book was published in 1998. I eagerly want to read an update. How has cod fared in the past 13 years? Anyone have any suggestions for follow reading and research?

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