Mark Kurlansky's Cod

Mark Kurlanksy, Cod: a biography of the fish that changed the world, 1997. [Paperback published by Penguin.]

A short book on the role of (mostly) Atlantic cod, which, beyond being yet another species-so-abundant-we-couldn’t-help-but-nearly-extinguish-it, was apparently the seventeenth century ocean-crosser’s equivalent of interstate service areas (in that great distances could be travelled with comparatively convenient access to food). Kurlansky offers various contemporary recipes for cod-based dishes in between chapters, although I’ve never seen true salt cod for sale out here in California. (Cloves have been on a multi-century decline from their peak as the “it” herb in the 1700s.)

The discussion never convincingly reconnects to present-day fishermen who are sampling the Grand Banks cod population, although the recollection of the richness of the Banks and the fishing culture of only fifty or sixty years ago is well told. Little discussion of even small-scale aquaculture for cod, or really of the cod ecology, but an excellent survey of the role of an effective natural resource in various periods in the history of North America and Western Europe.