Cod and Whitstable
Finished Mark Kurlansky‘s Cod: a biography of the fish that changed the world on the way back from Whitstable last week where we’d basked in the sun with very yummy prawn tarts from Wheelers Oyster Bar, stocked up at the Oxford Street Books, and feasted on the many local and Irish rock oysters available at the Whitstable Oyster Festival (the Whitstables rocks win gills down for small plump sweetness).
For a one-subject book, it was immensely fascinating – not just because of Kurlansky’s writing style, but also because he pointed out as he whizzed you past countries and centuries and recipes, how things connected. A bit of speculation on the part of the author smoothed the passages about he Basques and their secret cod-fishing spot in the Atlantic, politics through the ages, salting and smoking for preservation – with second-rate produce going to the slave colonies where their denizens acquired a taste for the cured fish, the risks taken by fishermen, the Pilgrims whimpering that they had nothing to offer their guests except lobsters, the evolution of fishing techniques and fishing vessels and their effect on the global cod population etc.
There was much suggestion too that the strident opinions promulgated, and the decisions made, by those in positions of influence were born of a narrow-mindedness, blinkered less by plain ignorance than selfish ambition. See, eg., Thomas Henry Huxley and his arrogant dismissal of fishermen’s claims that overfishing was wiping out the cod population, with “fishermen, as a class, are exceedingly unobservant of anything about fish which is not absolutely forced upon them by their daily avocations”.
A chilling thought. And also a vivid illustration of why it is important to adhere to eternal truth from proven trustworthy messengers, as set out in the Bible, rather than being tossed and turned by the intellectual fashion of the day.
“May those who come behind us find us faithful”? More than that, since man’s opinions are fallible and in any case, are ultimately of little consequence, may the eternal God find us faithful.