John's Reviews > Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World

Cod by Mark Kurlansky
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's review
May 31, 2011

liked it
Read from May 31 to June 01, 2011

This was a fun little pop history. Though I wonder if Mr. Kurlansky realized at a certain point that he didn't really have the material for a particularly hefty tome, and if that might be the reason why he closes the book with 40 pages of cod recipes. Recipes for the cooking of a fish that he has just spent 200 pages convincing me that I can't eat anymore. What is the use of these recipes? No one would buy this for a cookbook, and the people who buy it because they like fun little pop histories aren't really going to use the recipes, are they? Maybe they will, but they'll use hake instead. Or haddock. Or the like.
But anyway, I see why this book was so popular: there are all kinds of interesting tidbits here that seem par for the course with this kind of book (and par for the course for Kurlansky, as he went on to write about Salt, Oysters, etc.) The Basques got to America before Columbus but didn't tell anyone, because they were in pursuit of...Cod! Icelandic people and Britons fought a war you've never heard of with shooting and everything over fishing of...Cod! Way too many Gloucestermen have been lost at sea due to unrelenting pursuit of...Cod!
For some reason I had it in my head that this was written in the mid 2000s rather than the mid 90s, which caused me some bewilderment at times, as when he writes about whether the cod will return to Newfoundland, as they had before (nope). I finally realized my mistake when he referenced the Red Sox as "perennial losers" and I was briefly lost in happy thoughts of 2004 and 2007. At least New England fisherman can be happy about something.

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