Journalist Richard Schweid first learned the strange facts of the
freshwater eel's life from a fisherman in a small Spanish town just
south of Valencia. "The eeler who explained the animal's life cycle
to me did so as he served up an eel he had just taken from a trap,
killed, cleaned, and cooked in olive oil in an earthenware dish,"
writes Schweid. "I ate it with a chunk of fresh, crusty bread. It
was delicious. I was immediately fascinated."
As this engaging culinary and natural history reveals, the humble
eel is indeed an amazing creature. Every European and American eel
begins its life in the Sargasso Sea--a vast, weedy stretch of deep
Atlantic waters between Bermuda and the Azores. Larval eels drift
for up to three years until they reach the rivers of North America
or Europe, where they mature and live as long as two decades before
returning to the Sargasso to mate and die. Eels have never been
bred successfully in captivity.
Consulting fisherfolk, cooks, and scientists, Schweid takes the
reader on a global tour to reveal the economic and gastronomic
importance of eel in places such as eastern North Carolina, Spain,
Northern Ireland, England, and Japan. (While this rich yet
mild-tasting fish has virtually disappeared from U.S. tables, over
$2 billion worth of eel is still eagerly consumed in Europe and
Asia each year.) The book also includes recipes, both historic and
contemporary, for preparing eel.