Mark Kurlansky first came to my attention thanks to Seth, whose post I riffed on. Then Seth pointed this out, and I have been on the lookout ever since. And today I was rewarded when listening to the author discuss his new book. Click any image below to go to that interview.
Pink salmon school in the deep pools of the Campbell River, before venturing farther upstream to the spawning beds. British Columbia. (Credit: Tavish Campbell) Continue reading
Yuya Shino / Reuters via The Atlantic
Almost exactly five years ago, I quoted Mark Kurlansky’s book focused on the history of an Atlantic fish species, Cod. I knew he’d written another book on the history of salt, but haven’t read it yet. With a podcast episode from Gastropod that was featured in The Atlantic recently, I got a nice summary of the subject and learned even more about the current issues revolving around sodium.
Salt is a magical substance. It reduces bitterness, enhances sweetness, boosts flavor, and preserves perishable foods. Without it, we would die: The human body can’t make sodium, but our nerves and muscles don’t work without it. It was considered rare until quite recently, so it’s hardly surprising that, throughout history, salt has been the engine behind empires and revolutions. Today, there’s a new battle in the salt wars, between those who think that we eat too much of it and it’s killing us—and those who think most of us are just fine. Join us for a serving of salt, seasoned with science, history, and a little politics.
William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts for much of the first half of the 1600s, from whom North Americans have inherited the notion of communal Thanksgiving (and incidentally my grandfather 26 generations removed) noted:
The major part [of the Pilgrims] inclined to go to Plymouth chiefly for the hope of present profit to be made by the fish that was found in that country (Cod; 67).
Fast forward a few centuries. Bottom trawling, longlining, and gillnetting during the 19th and 20th Centuries were probably the most responsible for cod’s population decline in North America. Faced with the same great abundance that had helped bring settlers to Cape Cod, huge fishing companies acted rationally to maximize their own gain, taking advantage of the bountiful commons, and this led to ruin. With the near disappearance of cod came the absence of herring, capelin, humpback whales, and squid. Continue reading