An unexpected, energetic look at world history on sea and land from the bestselling author of Salt and The Basque History of the World
Cod,Mark Kurlansky’s third work of nonfiction and winner of the 1999 James Beard Award, is the biography of a single species of fish, but it may as well be a world history with this humble fish as its recurring main character. 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?
“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, author of The Wright Brothersand 1776
I found this book interesting, however if you do not like to read non-fiction this would be a tough book to get through. I particularly enjoyed the first half of the book that talked about the 16,17,1800s because I really did not realize how big of an impact that Cod fish had on different world events. As the book came to a close it was sad to read about the harsh realities of over fishing. Is there an accurate way to predict when fish have become overfished? Or an accurate way to determine when the populations will return? Maybe technology can help us better answer these questions but I feel that this is another prime example of how detrimental humans can be to the environment.45
Great read! It's amazing that one fish could have such a profound influence on who we've become and how we got that way over centuries.55
This is an excellent book to introduce yourself to the fish that changed the world. Kurlansky manages to write a biography of the codfish and relate it to the history of the Basque, the settlement of North America, and the development of the salt industry all in one short book. It so happens that Kurlansky has other books on the same topics. If you enjoy food and history, this book will excite you and leave you a Kurlansky fan. I recommend this book for its easy reading and if nothing else a few "extras" like archaic cod recipes from days gone by.55