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Cod (Mark Kurlansky)

 
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is
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Joined: 15 Aug 2006
Posts: 837
Location: Yaoundé

PostPosted: Sat Jul 19, 2008 3:09 pm    Post subject: Cod (Mark Kurlansky) Reply with quote

Cod
A biography of the fish that changed the world
by Mark Kurlansky [author of Salt]
US$13.00
pp 282

According to the Penguin books bio, Mark Kurlansky worked for several years on commercial fishing boats. He later became a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, IHT, Harper's, Audobon and the NYT.

He is primarily known for his fascinating Salt, an account of the history sodium chloride. Some of his other books are: A Chosen Few: the Resurrection of European Jewry, The Basque History of the World.

Here is a preview of the book, from the table of contents:
1. The race to Codlandia
2. With mouth wide open
3. The cod rush
4. 1620: the rock and the cod
5. Certain inalienable rights
6. A cod war heard 'round the world

7. A few new ideas verus 9 million eggs
8. The last two ideas
9. Iceland discovers the finite universe
10. Three wars to close the open sea

11. Requiem for the Grand Banks
12. The dangerous waters of nature's resilience
13. Bracing for the Spanish Armada
14. Bracing for the Canadian Armada

In between the chapters are recipes, both old and contemporary, about how to prepare cod, both salted and fresh. The Basque fishermen who traveled to Newfoundland and Labrador before Columbus discovered America are also mentioned.

In Spain, cod is known as bacalao and in Portugal it's bacalhau. In France, they make a difference between salted cod, morue, and fresh cod, cabillaud. But Kurlansky explains how that difference arose due to a Paris restaurateur.

Because there is a chapter devoted to Gloucester, MA, I thought it might interest Bob, among others. Here's what he says about the difference between Gloucester and Rockport, two very different towns physically and sociologically. Many of you will remember Gloucester as the fishing port in The Perfect Storm, with Brad Pitt.

"Today, Gloucester has as much in common with its neighbor on Cape Ann, Rockport, as Newlyn has with Mousehole. Rockport is a pretty little town with a pretty little harbor full of expensive yachts. The waterfront shops sell crafts and snacks for 'New Englanders who really wish to visit the sea-side.' Gloucester could have been Newlyn's sister. It is a rough, downhill fishing town..."
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Bob
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Location: Connecticut and Massachusetts

PostPosted: Sat Jul 19, 2008 11:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Funny that you should post this review just now. We met Mark Kurlansky and his family two weeks ago (He is a friend of one of our neighbors in our condo building in Rockport). A very interesting man to talk with.

Rockport used to be part of Gloucester, and makes up about 25% of the island on which both towns sit. It's much smaller that Gloucester. The year round population is only about 7500, which swells to over 22,000 in the summer. Winter Rockport is very quiet and mostly middle class. There is a little fishing here, but quite a bit of lobstering.

Gloucester is grittier and more working class, but has some seriously wealthy people among its residents, with fake cops trying to block access to the road their mansions are on. You just wave to them and drive on through. It also has a small grocery with an good selection of Asturian chorizos and cheeses, among other things.

Fishing is in decline (thanks to shrinking stocks and government regulations that are not always rational). The Crow's nest, part of the infamous Bermuda Triangle of bars is not the same building portrayed in The Perfect Storm. My son visited one night and observed the goings on, including a man who would pour a bit of lighter fluid on a small patch of chest hair and set it afire in exchange for a drink.

On the positive side, people in both towns are very friendly, and there are some excellent bakeries in Gloucester. I visit my favorite (run by Sicilians) every day at 8:00 am for a fresh loaf of crusty bread hot out of the ovens. There, I witnessed a very Asturian scene there ten days ago.

A family from New York walked in and asked, in Italian, "Where in Italy are you from?" "Sicily" was the reply, also in Italian. "What town?" "Sciacca" Switching to Sicilian, the visitors said "We're from Sciacca too. Do you know so and so?" At this point the conversation speeded up to the point at which I could barely follow it, but there was a lot of abrazos and talk about people they both knew.

While cod is becoming increasingly rare and expensive, I can easily find out which boat brought it in and when just by asking. I buy from a small retail shop located in one of the major fish processor and wholesaler's building, and at nearly wholesale prices.

As far as I have been able to determine, there are exactly two people of Asturian descent in Gloucester and Rockport: me and a woman in Gloucester nicknamed Xana (She had no idea what the nickname meant until I told her) who runs a bed and breakfast.
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Anuska
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Location: Avilés

PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hola muchachos:

Muchos de los libros de este autor están traducidos al español, por si a alguien le interesa.

El bacalao: biografía del pez que cambió el mundo

Mark Kurlansky

Península, 1999. ISBN 84-8307-218-1
Sal: historia de la única piedra comestibleMark Kurlansky

Península, 2003. ISBN 84-8307-533-4

La historia vasca del mundo

Mark Kurlansky

Barcelona : Ediciones del Bronce, 2000. ISBN 84-8453-029-9
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is
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Location: Yaoundé

PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

El mundu ye un panuelu, Bob. But then again, Rockport sounds like a place with a lot of in-and-out transit.

I used to work on Martha’s Vineyard during college summers (The Black Dog, Vineyard Haven), and remember stopping at the Portuguese towns in southern Massachusetts (Fall River, New Bedford). But I’ve never been up to Rockport and had no idea it was so close to Gloucester, until I looked it up on a map.

According to Kurlansky, there is a sizeable Sicilian population up there. He speaks with a few Sicilians in his book Cod. Are there Portuguese from the Azores there too, as in southern Mass. and the Vineyard?

As for Xana, leave it up to you to find the local Asturian! [As well as the Asturian cheeses & chourizos, I may add] You sure she doesn’t spell her name as Xena?

Your description of Gloucester, btw, reminded me of a show I saw at the National Gallery in Washington back in January. Not the guy pouring lighter fluid on his chest, but the working-class atmosphere. Edward Hopper painted scenes of Gloucester in the 1920s and 30s, when the town may have been more prosperous. They are mostly empty street scenes, not scenes of the fishing port. I think you can probably see them at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (www.mfa.org).

If you run into Kurlansky again, try to convince him to visit Asturias. He’s already written a book about the Basques and knows Vigo in Galicia. Maybe you can make him a homemade chourizo sandwich with pimientos de padron?

Here is Kurlansky’s conclusion to the chapter on Gloucester:

“Is it really all over? Are these last gatherers of food from the wild to be phased out? Is this the last of wild food? Is our last physical tie to untamed nature to become an obscure delicacy like the occasional pheasant? Is Gloucester to become a village of boutiques, labeled an ‘artist colony’, like Rockport? Will Newlyn [in Cornwall, UK] one day be only for strolling, like its neighboring towns, or as has already happened to St Sebastian [San Sebastian/Donostia]? Will Gloucester harbor, too, be converted into a yacht basin? Or should it be preserved, as is Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, as a museum to the days of fishing?”
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is
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Location: Yaoundé

PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ana Lombao wrote:
Muchos de los libros de este autor están traducidos al español, por si a alguien le interesa.


Vaya, que interesante, Ana. Nun sabia que fixeran la torna de los l.libros de Kurlansky. Gracias por ponelo eiqui no foru.

El que tou acabante l.leer, Bacalao, paeciome mui interesante ya seique tamien camudou mi percepcion d'el peixe.

Corrixeme si m'enquivoco, pero n'Asturias nun hai muita tradicion de comer bacalao. Pulo menos na mia esperiencia, la xente nun cumia el bacalau salau cumo fain en Portugal.

N'Asturias de nuesos guelos cumiase mas peixe fresco porque taban cerca la costa ya nun habia que salalo? A min pulo menos, mia buola nunca nun feixo bacalau en casa...
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Bob
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ana, thanks for the information on the translation of Kurlansky's books into Spanish.

Is, yes, there are quite a few Azoreans in Gloucester, and the businesses there include an imported Portuguese goods grocery store, a Portuguese meat market (great Portuguese sausage) and an excellent restaurant (The Azorean) that is one of our favorite restaurants.

And yes, it is Xana, not Xena. See http://www.hoveyhouse.com/blog/2006/12/rating-gloucester-restaurants.html

And even as I write, I have chorizos caseros asturianos and pimientos de padrón in the refrigerator.

Is wrote

Quote:

Corrixeme si m'enquivoco, pero n'Asturias nun hai muita tradicion de comer bacalao. Pulo menos na mia esperiencia, la xente nun cumia el bacalau salau cumo fain en Portugal.


My grandparents were from the coastal region of Castrillón, and both salt and fresh cod were staples. Every Christmas Eve the family gathered for fried fresh cod, coated in flour then beaten egg and fried in oil on the now antique stove that sits in my kitchen in New Haven. Salt cod was prepared bu soaking in several changes of water for at least 24 hours, then baking the fish in a sauce made from tomato, onion and pimiento. I make it several times a year.
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is
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting, Bob. Asturians, and Spaniards in general, I think, celebrate the holidays with seafood rather than meat. Again, I think it's mostly from Galicia and Asturias to the Basque Country. But you may be right that people may have had cod on Chrismtas or New Year's. I should ask my father about this.

I wonder if habits changed after a few generations with the higher prices for cod and the lower fish stocks. Maybe your grandparents were used to eating fresh cod in Castrillon (Aviles and Cuideiru aren't far), but also knew about salt cod. And maybe at the time it was more of a delicacy than say monkfish (pixin)? Like anything, food goes through fashions.

Interesting to know about Xana in Glasta (Gloucester). And really, when are you opening your restaurant or bakery?
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Bob
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 4:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have long had a fantasy of opening an Asturian restaurant, but we have enough enough friends who are chefs and resturant owners that it has always remained clearly in the fantasy category. To put it simply: it is far to much work and the hours are terrible if you do it right. On the other hand, I enjoy cooking Asturian food for these friends, and I have taken over the kitchen of one restaurant for the evening to cook for the chefs and the staff, and have an invitation to do the same at another (customers too at this one, and I will have several sou chefs andf other kitchen helpers).

I take food very seriously, but I enjoy each kind of food for its own sake. Our two very favorite places to eat in Rockport are a hot dog place (very high quality and great attention to detail - dinner for two $10-$12) and a very expensive gourmet restaurant (dinner for two with wine can easily exceed $200 or $250. We enjoy each equally in its own way. They are very different, but they are both very good because they don't cut corners and they too take food very seriously.
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Anuska
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Location: Avilés

PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 2:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

¡Hola!

Bueno, en mi casa la tradición navideña no se basa precisamente en el bacalo. En todo caso mi madre cocina besugo o cordero.

Hace años cocinaba bacalao a menudo - principalmente salado - en salsa de bonito o a la vizcaína.

Personalmente es un pescado que no me gusta mucho, pero es que soy bastante "especialita". No soy de comer mucho pescado y, cuando lo hago, me decanto por la lubina, el bonito o los bocartes, que es lo que más me gusta.

Por cierto, la mejor lubina que he comido (aparte de la que cocina la mamma que está buenísima) fue en el Real Balneario de Salinas, al champán, exquisita.

Saludos,

Ana
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Mafalda



Joined: 04 Nov 2005
Posts: 257
Location: España

PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 7:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yo creo que la tradición de comer bacalao, es mas de Semana Santa que de Navidad, por aquello de la vigilia, sobretodo preparado en la salsa de bonito que menciona Ana.

En Oviedo tambien es tradicional comer garbanzos con bacalao y espinacas (¡que ricos!) el dia que se celebra "El desarme" (19 de Octubre), este menu se complementa con callos y de postre se sirve ¡como no! arroz con leche.
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