Monday, August 4, 2008

A Fish Tale...

The book for the flight to St. Louis was another of Mark Kurlansky - this one is on the fish known as Cod.

Wars have been fought over it, revolutions have been spurred by it, national diets have been based on it, economies have depended on it, and the settlement of North America was driven by it. 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 their expeditions to America? Cod--frozen and dried in the frosty air, then broken into pieces and eaten like hard-tack. What was the staple of the medieval diet? Cod again, sold salted by the Basques, an group of folks with a mysterious, unlimited supply of cod.

This book is a charming tour of history with all its economic forces laid bare and a fish story embellished with great gastronomic detail. (lots and lots of old cod recipies) It is also a tragic tale of environmental failure, of depleting fishing stocks where once the cod's numbers were legendary.

I also learned of the etymology of some words I didn't know before:

"In England, Hanseatic League members were called Easterlings because they came from the East, and their good reputation is reflected int he word
Sterling, which comes from Easterling and means 'of assured value'."


"The name
Schooner comes from an eighteenth-century New England word, scoon, meaning 'to skim lightly on the water'."

I enjoy the writing, story line, and learning when I read Mark Kurlansky.


Gramps said...

That's interesting. We certainly enjoyed Cod in Norway. Thanks for sharing.

Gram said...

Very interesting report. Reading certainly can bring knowledge as well as pleasure. I love cod, especially when we ate it in Norway.