|Puree of salt cod, garlic & potato emulsified with olive oil|
There is much to know about the cod. Mark Kurlansky in his book, Cod: the Biography of a Fish that Changed the World, has given me a lot of food for thoughts and conversations. Mark Kurlansky tells the tales of cod in the context of human history and enterprise. For about six hundred years, wars have been fought over the cod, revolutions have been triggered by it, national diets have been based on it, and economies and livelihoods have depended on it. More details on the book can be found here.
When the Basque whalers in the Middle Ages applied to cod the salting techniques they were using on whale, they discovered a particularly good marriage because the cod is virtually without fat. If salted and dried well, it would rarely spoil. It was a fascinating piece of history and a miracle comparable to the discovery of the fast-freezing process in the twentieth century, which also debuted with cod. Not only did cod last longer than other salted fish, but it tasted better too. Once dried or salted and then properly restored through soaking, this fish presents a flaky flesh that to many tastes superior to the bland white meat of fresh cod.
Kurlansky surveys history from a cod point of view. Cod preserved en masse became food for the masses. The salty stuff sustained the Vikings and large populations throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. And when explorers began claiming territories in the New World, cod became the food that fed colonialism.
However, there is no happy ending to the tales of this once prolific and most profitable fish in history; cod is now faced with extinction.
|Served with freshly-baked bread|
Brandade is an ordinary and humble dish made from the salt cod — beset with the most extraordinary biography and history. A conversation topic that’d undoubtedly enliven any party! Make sure to check out the food party scene at full swing at IHCC this week.