Kurlansky, Mark. Cod: a Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.
Reason read: Mark Kurlansky was born in December.
This is a book about all things cod. Really. Beyond the historical and ecological significance of the fish there is etymology and art and music and of course, recipes. Don’t get too excited – they’re really old recipes that do not sound appetizing! As an aside, I have a student worker who is just amazed someone could write an entire book not just about fish in general, but a specific fish at that. Here’s my reply: It’s a concise book, but did you know that color of a cod fish depends on the local conditions? Also, the colder the water, the smaller the fish because cod grow faster in warmer waters. Better yet, there are fascinating tidbits not related to cod. For example, all English towns that end in “wich” were at one time salt producers. And did you know Clarence Birdseye of Brooklyn, New York held over 250 patents before his death and not all were related to the process of freezing food? But, back to the cod: let’s not forget about the historical significance this fish had on the American Revolution! Interesting, right? So, in the end one can safely say Cod is not just about the historical significance of one little fish, it’s about a way of life .
Two lines I liked, “Fishermen were keeping their secrets, while explorers were telling the world” (p 28) and “Finally, in 1902, seven years after the death of Huxley, the British government began to concede that there was such a thing as overfishing” (p 144). Imagine that.
Confessional: Mark Kurlansky prompted me to Google/YouTube the song “Saltfish” by Mighty Sparrow. I learned something new!
Author fact: Kurlansky has experience working on commercial fishing boats. Cool.
Book trivia: the physical book is one of those “feels good to hold” books and it includes great photographs & illustrations.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust and Book Lust To Go. In the chapter “Mark Kurlansky: Too Good To Miss” (p 141) in Book Lust and again in the chapter “Newfoundland” (p 154) in Book Lust To Go.