Sunday, February 11, 2007

Cod: A biography of the Fish that Changed the World, by Mark Kurlansky

This book was 7 hours and 37 minutes long and was read by Richard M. Davidson.

If you know me well, you know that I eat stuff like this up. Odd slants on history are a favorite of mine, although after reading this, our political histories will seem like a footnote to the desperate search for sustainable food supplies.

For many years the humble cod fish was a staple of life for coastal people. The first explorers, in fact, went looking for better fishing instead of land and titles. When John Cabot came upon the coast of Newfoundland and claimed it for England, it was already frequented by the Basques in large numbers. They had simply kept their mouths shut about it, preferring to keep the fish for themselves.

That is the kind of odd history that lies beneath the more famous stories. Cod were able to be dried and carried for a long time, making not only the long voyages of the explorers possible, but the West Indian slave trade as well. And cod have continued to be a bone of contention between cod-rich Iceland and its European neighbors, as late as the 1970s.

This was fascinating, and a wonderful read. I'd give it 4 stars if it didn't get bogged down in so darned many recipes for cod. It got to be a drag after awhile. It slips to 3 stars just for that alone.

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