Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World

Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World

Paperback

By (author) Mark Kurlansky

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  • Publisher: VINTAGE
  • Format: Paperback | 304 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 24mm | 299g
  • Publication date: 6 May 1999
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0099268701
  • ISBN 13: 9780099268703
  • Sales rank: 19,922

Product description

The Cod. Wars have been fought over it, revolutions have been triggered by it, national diets have been based on it, economies and livelihoods have depended on it. To the millions it has sustained, it has been a treasure more precious that gold. This book spans 1,000 years and four continents. From the Vikings to Clarence Birdseye, Mark Kurlansky introduces the explorers, merchants, writers, chefs and fisherman, whose lives have been interwoven with this prolific fish. He chronicles the cod wars of the 16th and 20th centuries. He blends in recipes and lore from the Middle Ages to the present. In a story that brings world history and human passions into captivating focus, he shows how the most profitable fish in history is today faced with extinction.

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Author information

Mark Kurlansky is the author of several bestselling non-fiction titles including Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World (winner of the Glenfiddich Best Food Book Award), The Basque History of the World, Salt: A World History, 1968: The Year that Rocked the World, a short story collection The White Man in the Tree and a novel, Boogaloo on 2nd Avenue.

Review quote

The Cod. Wars have been fought over it, revolutions have been triggered by it, national diets have been based on it, economies and livelihoods have depended on it. To the millions it has sustained, it has been a treasure more precious that gold. This book spans 1,000 years and four continents. From the Vikings to Clarence Birdseye, Mark Kurlansky introduces the explorers, merchants, writers, chefs and fisherman, whose lives have been interwoven with this prolific fish. He chronicles the cod wars of the 16th and 20th centuries. He blends in recipes and lore from the Middle Ages to the present. In a story that brings world history and human passions into captivating focus, he shows how the most profitable fish in history is today faced with extinction.

Editorial reviews

Cod - that whitest of the white-fleshed fish, prize of every fish-and-chips establishment - gets expert, loving, and encyclopedic handling from Food and Wine columnist Kurlansky (A Chosen Few: The Resurrection of European Jewry, 1994, etc.). There was one very good reason that tenth-century Vikings made it to the New World: Norway to Iceland to Greenland to Canada, they followed the exact range of the Atlantic cod. When explorers pushed off European shores in search of Eldorado, others made straight for the cod fisheries of the North Atlantic; the codfishers got by far the better results. Writing with a bright, crisp, journalistic flair, Kurlansky situates the cod in all its historic glory: the mysteries of the early Basque fisheries, the role of Catholic lean days in generating a profitable market, and the rise of the codfish aristocrats. The fish ascended from a commodity to a fetish: on coins, newspaper mastheads, tax stamps, official crests and seals. The author explains how a cod run could determine an entire regional economy and how salt cod figured in slave trading. Then came the steam engine and frozen food, changing the face of a dory-and-schooner fishing practice that hadn't seen a makeover in eons. The revolution wreaked havoc on the marketplace and just plain wrecked the bank fisheries. Territorial boundaries; the complexities of marine ecology; old, annotated recipes for preparing cod; place portraits of Gloucester, Mass., and Newlyn, England; and the current moratorium on cod fishing - Kurlansky sketches them all in his effort to compose this smart biography of the famous groundfish. Will the cod come back? Kurlansky demurs; maybe its place will be usurped by the ratty Arctic cod: "Nature, the ultimate pragmatist, doggedly searches for something that works. But as the cockroach demonstrates, what works best in nature does not always appeal to us." (Kirkus Reviews)