This is an excellent book, and a much quicker read than Kurlansky’s more famous and popular book, Salt. I love that it balances History, Food, and Environmentalism so well. The exploration of the history of Humanity’s use of cod requires that. From the Basque sailors, to the slave trade, to the diminishing employment of Newfoundlander fishermen, there’s a lot of ground to cover in the story of this most hearty of fish.
The warning signs writ large, about overfishing, about polluting, about climate change, and about the shortsightedness of governments and individuals, still ring true, 20 years after the book was written. These issues, these problems, pitfalls, and potential disasters haven’t gone away. And they’re not likely to, so long as we don’t acknowledge them and work to address them.
As a lover of food, travel, and history, the book had tons of great information, and as with the best history books, plenty of new questions I’ll need to search for answers to. Having traveled to a bunch of Spain and some of Portugal, I was fascinated by the whys and wherefores of their cuisine.
The book is also packed with recipes, some very, very old. Food archaeology fascinates me, and I am tempted to try my hand at some of these, or at least, try to get some the next time I travel into cod-eating lands.
I am drawn to these single item/single concept perspective history texts. Salt, The Fourth Part of the World, Odessa, etc. Looking at one thing, be it a resource, a philosophy, a family, or a city, and seeing how that one thing affected history in unexpected ways. And of course, I’m fascinated by how everything is connected. Nothing happens in a vacuum. History is a web of confusing interactions.
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