A Biography of the Fish That Changed the WorldBook - 1997
The codfish. Wars have been fought over it, revolutions have been spurred by it, national diets have been based on it, economies and livelihoods have depended on it, and the settlement of North America was driven by it. To the millions it has sustained, it has been a treasure more precious than gold. Indeed, the codfish has played a fascinating and crucial role in world history.
Cod spans a thousand years and four continents. From the Vikings, who pursued the codfish across the Atlantic, and the enigmatic Basques, who first commercialized it in medieval times, to Bartholomew Gosnold, who named Cape Cod in 1602, and Clarence Birdseye, who founded an industry on frozen cod in the 1930s, Mark Kurlansky introduces the explorers, merchants, writers, chefs, and of course the fishermen, whose lives have interwoven with this prolific fish. He chronicles the fifteenth-century politics of the Hanseatic League and the cod wars of the sixteenth and twentieth centuries. He embellishes his story with gastronomic detail, blending in recipes and lore from the Middle Ages to the present.
And he brings to life the cod itself: its personality, habits, extended family, and ultimately the tragedy of how the most profitable fish in history is today faced with extinction.
From fishing ports in New England and Newfoundland to coastal skiffs, schooners, and factory ships across the Atlantic; from Iceland and Scandinavia to the coasts of England, Brazil, and West Africa, Mark Kurlansky tells a story that brings world history and human passions into captivating focus.
From the critics
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This book is about the history of this very influential and tasty fish! Cod seems to be mostly fished in the Atlantic, so the story follows how European fisherman from hundreds of years ago discovered special areas where this fish was most likely to be caught. It explains how Cod became such an important staple of various cultures' diets. One interesting fact: it explains how the search for this valuable fish may have helped lead Europeans to the Americas, where there are rich cod-fishing banks near Maine and Canada. Sadly, this book also tells the tale of how overfishing and modern fishing trawlers have brought this fish to near extinction.
I got this book from my friend Andy Schroeder who had previously let me borrow another unusual food based book entitled simply Oranges. Oranges was better, but Cod was pretty interesting too. I'm interested in food, nature, and the environment, so as sad as it is to learn about our problems with overconsumption, I do want to be aware of the truth, and this book supplied plenty.
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