Saturday, March 22, 2008


OK, time for a compare-and-contrast sort of deal, showing the differences between a GOOD fishstory and a NOT SO GOOD one. The previous entry disgustedly discusses a NOT SO GOOD. Oh, it's OK, but only just -- nothing to write home about, if you will. Today's entry at Cliffie's Notes discusses a DANG GOOD fishstory, penned by OUR FRIEND Mark Kurlansky, fishstorian supreme. The book was copyrighted in 1997 to Kurlansky himself, and published by Walker and Company, New York.
OK, it's only fair to start out by saying that Fagan DOES offer some nuggets of information about the Cod that Kurlansky apparently MISSED, like the one about dried, or salted-and-dried Cod being the best preserved food available in Europe for centuries because it it so much less fatty, and thus longer-keeping, than Herring or Eel. Kurlansky treats of the Codfish in isolation, as if other species were never an issue, and clearly THIS IS NOT THE CASE.
But wherever Kurlansky does drill, he drills deeply indeed. We learn in this book about the monkey people's burning love for Codfish that eventually led them all the way to the New World, and eventually forced them to close the world's most heavily-used Cod fisheries because of ecological collapse and general PISCATORIAL BURNOUT. (One thing the shaved monkeys never learn is that YOU CAN HAVE TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING.)
We learn about the inconsolable sense of loss felt by Newfoundland Cod fishermen and their neighbors and families, people so at one with their recruiting operatives that they would feel humiliated fishing for anything else. (Now THERE is an example of doing one's job too well, ladies; let it be a lesson to you. LET YOUR SISTERS HELP YOU!) Even Theater Of Fish, reviewed elsewhere on this site, does not capture the perpetual state of Codfish mourning felt by Newfoundlanders. This book does.
We learn a few choice bits of American regional fish cookery.
We learn, if we didn't already know it, about the personal lives of Codfish.
We learn what a bunch of HOPELESS MOPES the Pilgrims really were, coming over to the New World claiming to be fishermen but not even knowing how to bait a hook. The damned fools almost starved because they REFUSED TO LEARN ABOUT FISH.
We learn how our sisters were gutted, improperly salted and improperly dried in order to promote the slave trade in the West Indies. ONLY YOU AND I KNOW that "West Indian cure" Codfish broke all recruiting records, year after year, for CENTURIES, proving that no matter what they do to decimate our ranks, WE WIN.
There is so much in this book to like, and it's presented in an engaging, well-written way that comes this close to spilling the beans about how it was the Cod themselves, not the muscled and moustachioed Cod hunters of Monkeydom, that led to the discovery by Europeans of the New World.
And I would like to APOLOGIZE HERE AND NOW to all the native tribes that took it in the shorts when Whitey landed. We really, truly did not expect it to come out this way. We expected them to assimilate, pick up on your sustainable fishing practices and piscatorial totems, and stop acting like glicknobs within a century or so. Had we known it would happen this way we would have led them to, I don't know, Antarctica or someplace. But it appears that the prophecies of the Sacred Clam are coming true after all, as tribally-owned casinos strip the invaders of every spare dime, allowing the tribes to live for the first time in centuries in relative peace and security, with something the rest of the USA seems not to want for itself: lifelong, guaranteed health and dental coverage, regardless of employment status.
But I digress. I just want to say that Cod is a fine read on a compelling subject.

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Blogger Ur-spo said...

i did read it; it was very good.

8:34 PM  

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