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Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud


Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World - Mark Kurlansky Rating: 3.75* of fiveVictorian scientists said that cod was the fish in the miracle of the loaves and fishes because there were so darn many of them....Yeah, late to the party yet again...13 years late. I read this book, I would swear, when it came out; I recognized a few of the anecdotes, and I remember the jacket design very clearly. But a lot had slipped from my memory, and I now wonder if I actually read it, or had enough conversations about it to think I had.Well, whatever, if it was a re-read it was a fun one. I like Kurlansky's informative-yet-chatty style, and I love the angle of view in the book...what's cod done for us as a species? So what? What's cod made possible in the world? The rise of an independent America. The agrarian horrors of African chattel slavery. The Industrial Revolution. Little stuff like that was built on the white-fleshed back of a formerly abundant fish.I like cod. Salted, dried, fresh-frozen, the tongues, the cheeks...it's all good, as my daughter's generation says with monotonous regularity (and questionable factual basis). I never once thought about Cod, the deliverer from hunger, until the Cod Wars of the early 1970s. I remember the world reaction to Iceland going to a 200-mile fishing limit with a teenager's detached bemusement: "So? Little teeny place like that, let 'em have it, big whoop." For rhetorical effect, let's assume I was sitting in front of the TV eating Gorton's fish sticks at the time I said this, though I spent little time with the TV and less eating fish sticks as a kid.It caused such trouble because of cod's enormous significance even now as an agribusiness output. Iceland's post-colonial economy was built on cod; Canada's Maritime provinces relied on it in those days (and on unemployment payments from the rest of Canada now that cod's commercially extinct); Norway and the UK want all there is to have so their fisheries industries don't wither away and leave them hungry as well as sailor-less.Kurlansky wrote a very enjoyable read about a very important food-source and industrial product. I recommend it to anyone even marginally interested in the world around them, to science browsers, and to policy wonks of a scientific bent. You won't regret it.