Scots like to smoke or salt them. The Dutch love them raw. Swedes look on with relish as they open bulging, foul-smelling cans to find them curdling within. Jamaicans prefer them with a dash of chili pepper. Germans and the English enjoy their taste best when accompanied by pickle's bite and brine.
The herring has done much to shape both human taste and history. Men cooperated and came into conflict over its shoals, setting out on boats to catch them and straying to bring full nets to shore. Women gutted and salted the catch during the annual harvest and knitted the garments fishermen wore to protect them from the ocean's chill.
Following a journey from the western edge of Norway to the east of England, from Shetland and the Outer Hebrides to the fishing ports of the Baltic coast of Germany and the Netherlands, Donald S. Murray has stitched together tales of the fish that was of central importance to the lives of many Europeans, noting how both itand those involved in its capturewere celebrated in the art, literature, craft, music, and folklore of northern Europe.
Blending together politics, science, history, religion, and commercial life, Murray contemplates, too, the possibility of restoring the silver darlings of legend to their long-ago shores.
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About the Author
Donald S. Murray comes from Ness at the northern tip of the Isle of Lewis and now lives in close proximity to "the Ness" at the southern end of Shetland. His poetry and prose are often about islands and the wildlife on and around them. The Gannet features strongly in his work, which includes The Guga Hunters, Praising the Guga, and The Guga Stone: Lies, Legends and Lunacies Of St Kinda, which was shortlisted as one of the Guardian's nature books of the year in 2013.