I just finished a rather large book about fish—specifically cod. I enjoy reading books about food, and in my typical nerdy fashion, I really like history as long as it doesn’t involve too much blood or graphic representations thereof. (As a side note, I didn’t particularly enjoy the Pacific portion of the WWII museum in New Orleans. Just sayin’.)
Anyway, for those of you who don’t know Mark Kurlansky’s work, he has written some interesting books about history and food. I didn’t read them in the order in which Kurlansky wrote them which does a disservice to the book I’m about to review. See Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World was one of his first books, but within its pages you can really see the trace beginnings of two of his other (and in my mind better) books: The Basque History of the World and Salt: A World History.
Cod takes a close examination this wee fish and its mighty big role in history. (Well, on the Atlantic cod’s place in history. Pacific cod gets a passing glance.) Generations of Basque had been fishing “secret” waters off of the coast of Newfoundland long before other Europeans “discovered” North America. Humans developed salt cod to keep the fish edible for long journeys and for trade with other countries. And, Kurlansky develops these two themes into the aforementioned books which I found more entertaining.
That is not to say that Cod isn’t entertaining and informative. There is a silly tale about the moving of a large wooden cod in New England that I found rather amusing. And, Kurlansky spends a lot time discussing Canadian conservation management methods and the collapse of Newfoundland cod fishing. But, honestly, the one thing I learned while reading this book is that I’m not a girl who can read almost 300 pages about fish. After finishing it, there were very few facts that I can recall from the book. On the other hand, I still recall half a dozen interesting things about the Basques and salt.
So, long review short: Cod was an interesting read to see the germination of two books I enjoyed immensely, but unless you’re over enthusiastic about fish, I’d take a pass.