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This review is from: Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World (Paperback)
An intriguing mixture of history, sociology, politics, conservation and cooking!
This book charts the history of cod fishing from the dark ages to the present. The Basques were apparently the first peoples to fish cod commercially and as such they beat even the Vikings to North America by exploiting the rich fishing grounds off the east coast.
There is discussion of the ways that different people in Europe liked their cod. Here in Britain it is eaten almost 100% fresh (or at least fresh frozen), whilst in other countries they would not touch fresh cod, the French wanting only salted fish. Presumably this is historical due to the problems of transporting fresh fish over any great distance.
In North America the Basques got lost in the shuffle because they never bothered to lay territorial claims to the land around their fishing stations, and we get a dispassionate description of the “Cod Wars” between Iceland and the UK, untainted by propaganda.
But the theme that runs through the book is over fishing. From the early days when the fish stocks were believed to be inexhaustible to the present when commercial sized fish are all but extinct in many areas of the North Atlantic. There is the bewilderment and anger of the fishermen, who blame anyone but themselves for the state of their fishing industry and the restrictions that have had to be imposed upon it.
The book is interspersed with cod recipes down the ages. Some are pretty disgusting to me; we don’t eat the intestines in the UK! Others I’m going to try just as soon as I can get my hands on some good fresh fish.