If you know the name Mark Kurlansky, kudos to you. If you’ve even read his books, please take a moment to high-five your screen.
Ever been completely engrossed in a book that was totally devoted to the history of one breed of fish?
I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s been about a year since I last read it, but I liked it so much I’m constantly talking about it to friends, who, I’m sure, think I’m a moron for getting all pumped up on Gorton’s Fisherman.
At any rate, my enjoyment of this work truly speaks to the talent of Kurlansky, who has the wondrous ability to take the histories of seemingly mundane subjects and create page-turners out of them. Passages like the following somehow put me on the edge of my seat:
The Basques were getting richer every Friday. But where was all this cod coming from? The Basques, who had never even said where they came from, kept their secret.
Kurlansky has my head filled with images when I read something like that. Dark men in dark clothes in dark boats, nurturing a secret commerce and winking to each other when their less-than-successful market-stall neighbors grumbled about the Basques’ mysterious source of product.
The last fish to truly stoke my imagination in this manner was this guy:
Although I was surprised by many of the things I learned about cod, I was not at all surprised by the fact that there was so much to learn. Kurlansky had done a fine job of prepping me for that by writing this book, which I had read prior to reading Cod:
Yep, you guessed it. It’s about salt. And it’s one hell of a story. Kurlansky, through the tale of the only rock we eat, even turned me on to the language and poetry of the Basque people (who factor in largely to this fish story) to the extent that I had a poem by Basque poet Gabriel Aresti
tattooed on me, and my wife and I have plans to have another of his poems done together. There’s blood and ink and pain and love all bound together in those little white crystals.
Next on the Kurlansky list?
If he can turn a fish and some flavor into two of my favorite reads, I can’t wait to see what he does with this. Read Kurlansky, and I promise you, you’ll never look at these little guys the same: