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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
In New England folklore, cod was the fish that Christ multiplied to feed the masses. Satan tried to do the same thing, but since his hands were burning hot, the fish wriggled away. The burn mark of Satan's thumb and forefinger left black stripes; hence the cod's differently striped and poorly regarded relative, the haddock.
How influential has the codfish been in the world's history? Wars have been fought over it, entire regional diets have been founded on it, the settlement of North America was based on it — and just recently a war nearly broke out on the high seas over it. Who knew? In Mark Kurlansky's fascinating book Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, the author offers a fascinating new perspective on world history.
Cod — winner of the 1998 James Beard Award for Writing on Food — traces the fish's thousand-year history across four continents. Kurlansky begins with present-day Newfoundland, where trouble has been abundant as a fishing crisis has stripped fishermen of their occupations and identity. He then examines the far reaches of cod's history with the Vikings, who pursued the fish across the Atlantic, and the Pilgrims, who set sail for the New World to pursue freedom of religion and to live on fishing — with neither the skills nor the equipment to do so.
Kurlansky introduces readers to some key historical figures in the history of this fish that changed the world. There is Bartholomew Gosnold, who named Cape Cod in 1602. Clarence Birdseye founded the frozen cod industry in the 1930s. Andthereare the countless fishermen in towns like Gloucester, St. Malo, and Newlyn — from Nova Scotia to the coasts of England, Brazil, and West Africa — all of whose livelihoods are currently being threatened by the global ecological crisis of the codfish. Sebastian Junger, take note: What made your runaway bestseller The Perfect Storm possible? Cod — the fish that changed the world.