Wednesday, December 21, 2016

COD: ...The Fish That Changed the World in 1,000 Years

Review of COD: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World
by Mark Kurlansky

A literary award winner, this history
of the last 1,000 years
of Western Civilization is given
all from the perspective

of a biography of one fish only, the cod.

The powerful history, especially shows the effect that this one fish had on multi-millions
of Europeans, Americans, and Caribbeans over hundreds of years.

It explains how it was part of the slavery/rum/cod
cycle of commerce, how it changed political, social
and economic fortunes, led to world travel, and finally how,
unexpectedly, this incredible sea story became an ecological disaster
for the Grand Banks of the North Atlantic.

As an American literature/history teacher,
I have an extensive background in history,
but time and again,
this book surprised me with new facts, bizarre
interrelationships between cod commerce and other events in human history--
fascinating side-tales about European countries,
their world exploration and their fishing industry,
all centered on the huge availability of this one species of fish.

Definitely, the most unusual biography I've ever read!

Of course, it's not really a biography so much of the cod itself--
though there are many descriptive details about the fish, even
a few delicious recipes from the last few hundreds
of years of European chefs, describing how multi-millions
of Europeans ate the fish as a staple in their diet
but in a wide variety of different ways.

Rather this page-turner
is a biography of all the many humans, beginning with the Basque and the Native Americans
who caught the millions of cod, even fought serious wars over fish, including the non-lethal
"Cod Wars" between the United Kingdom and Iceland in the 1960's and 70's.

Kurlansky helps us readers "see" the catching, processing, shipping, and eating of cod,
and its strange effects, some of them dramatic, on major historical events.

A real 10+ of an historical tome.

I've read the riveting book twice.

Don't miss the scrumptious virtual eating;-).

And, guess what, yes, I gobbled up seafood for breakfast this morning (as well as seafood at supper last night, though not cod this time. Smoked salmon and shrimp. Maybe, cod in a couple of days.

from the Amazon precis of the history book:
"Cod, it turns out, is the reason Europeans set sail across the Atlantic, and it is the only reason they could.

What did the Vikings eat in icy Greenland and on the five expeditions to America recorded in the Icelandic sagas? Cod, frozen and dried in the frosty air, then broken into pieces and eaten like hardtack.

What was the staple of the medieval diet? Cod again, sold salted by the Basques, an enigmatic people with a mysterious, unlimited supply of cod.

As we make our way through the centuries of cod history, we also find a delicious legacy of recipes, and the tragic story of environmental failure, of depleted fishing stocks where once their numbers were legendary.

In this lovely, thoughtful history, Mark Kurlansky ponders the question:
Is the fish that changed the world forever changed by the world's folly?"
from Amazon description

“Every once in a while a writer of particular skill takes a fresh, seemingly improbable idea and turns out a book of pure delight.
Such is the case of Mark Kurlansky and the codfish.” –David McCullough

Transitioning toward vegetarianism...
currently, a fishatarian:-)
Good to the 'finish.'

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

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