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Consider The Eel: A Natural And Gastronomic…

Consider The Eel: A Natural And Gastronomic History

by Richard Schweid

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I know, I know. Eels are icky. They're twisty and slimy and thoroughly unappealing. And yet, I couldn't put this book down. Schweid does for eels what Ellis did for Giant Squid or Kurlansky did for cod: take a maligned or little-known creature and show us the wonder to be found.

Did you know we're still not really sure how eels mate? Or that we wouldn't have a clue where they gave birth if someone hadn't accidentally found a tiny, translucent elver in the Sargasso Sea? It really blows me away that humanity has been interacting with eels for a good long time and we still have so many unanswered questions.

Scweid also introduces us to various people who have some connection to eels, either through their culture or their job (eel fishermen) or their fascination (eel scientist). He does an excellent job introducing us to these people and letting them tell their own stories.

On top of all this, Schweid gives a culinary history of eels, complete with recipes and his own culinary adventures in tracking the recipes down.

Who would have thought that the humble eel would prove so fascinating? ( )
  Mrs_McGreevy | Nov 17, 2016 |
Rather unusual for me to be reading a book on food, particularly seafood, and not be stimulated to cook and eat it. Ell, like gator-tail, chocolate-covered locust, dog, mealy-grub, and snake however are foods that I have decided not to eat again – once, maybe for some, twice - was enough.

However, it is fascinating animal and well worth the considering given to it by Schweid, a Barcelona ex-pat from Nashville, who savors the “rich, fish taste” of eel like a true European. Still largely unknown to science in all its habits, gestation, reproduction and even exactly how it selects it breeding and living grounds. Once chosen however; the eel settles “right in” growing and living in the same place for twenty, thirty or even (observed) 57 years. Then comes the long haul out, from fresh water to salt, to the middle of the Atlantic to breed – it is thought- in the Saragossa Sea, that mysterious Triangle off Bermuda. In order to perform the miracle of changing from a fresh-water fish to a pelagic the eel decides to stop eating, and its digestive tract atrophies! After breeding the offspring, having decided if they are Americans or Europeans, begin to swim back to those respective coasts, making a further triggered-decision not just of species, but of gender.

Americans no longer eat the eel, but the booming markets of Japan and North Europe are hard to satisfy, particularly – the old sad story – as pollution and over-fishing take the inevitable toll on the entire species. The smoked eel of northern Europe is celebrated throughout history and in all literature. There is a scene in Len Deighton’s Berlin Game where the hero orders schnapps after eating smoked-eel in a small Gasthaus up close to the “wall”. Merely, he insists as part of a long established German ritual, to wash the smell of eel off his fingers.

No, perhaps I will never eat eel again, but I now know much more about a fascinating animal from this well written intriguing book.
1 vote John_Vaughan | Aug 12, 2012 |
eels! i picked this book up with only a mild interest; when i put it down, i had developed a bona fide fascination with eels. an excellent read, engaging and informative, with historical, social, economic, biological and gastronomical context. ( )
  lindseynichols | Sep 6, 2007 |
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Much of the charm of Consider the Eel is that Richard Schweid imparts his freshly acquired knowledge in the words of those directly involved in the industry. . . . Those who fish for or deal in eels . . . are a secretive bunch, and it says much for Schweid's professionalism and underlying sympathy that he was able to extract so much colour and interest from the men and women he sought out.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0306813319, Paperback)

Outside of sushi houses and the rare four-star restaurant, most Americans would never think to eat eel, but throughout Europe and Asia you can find it grilled, smoked, stewed, jellied, skewered, fried, baked, sautéed, and even cooked into an omelet. In Consider the Eel, acclaimed writer Richard Schweid takes the reader on a journey to show how this rich yet mild-tasting fish is a vibrant part of the world culture. Discover how eels, from their birth in the Sargasso Sea to their eventual end as a piece of kabayaki or as part of an Italian Christmas dinner, are one of our oldest and least understood gifts from the sea.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:09 -0400)

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Explores how people around the world cook, eat, harvest, harm, protect, and study eels.

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