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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, Classic Recipes, Great Reference. Must Buy!, February 16, 2005
This review is from: North Atlantic Seafood: A Comprehensive Guide with Recipes (Paperback)
`North Atlantic Seafood' and `Mediterranean Seafood', both by noted culinary writer Alan Davidson, the author of `The Oxford Companion to Food' are reference books which a serious cook must have in their library where time is spent deciding on what to eat rather than time spend actually cooking. These books belong to a rare breed of books in English such as Elizabeth Schneider's `Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini' or `Bruce Cost's Asian Ingredients' which thoroughly cover a broad single subject or the `Larousse Gastronomique' which gives an overview of virtually every culinary subject, at least from the point of view of French cuisine.

Both books are organized in the same way that gives primacy to information on the aquatic species and secondary coverage of recipes.

Biological family, genus, and species organize the first part on the catalog of species in order that the biological similarity of the fishes is clearly shown. Each article gives the most common English name, the two part Latin scientific name, the scientist who assigned this name (most commonly the great inventor of biological Taxonomy, Linnaeus), the biological family name, and the common name of the fish in virtually every language of the major fishing nationality bordering the relevant body of water. The North Atlantic species, for example, are named in Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Polish, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and others such as Gaelic (Irish). The Mediterranean species' names are given in French, Spanish, Greek, Italian, Tunisian, Turkish, and others such as Bulgarian, Romanian, and Russian if, for example, the species is most commonly found in the Black Sea, which is included in the coverage of the Mediterranean. These names in themselves are entertaining to the linguistically inclined, as it is interesting to see the similarities and differences from country to country. For example, even though the Turks came to Asia Minor from central Asia, most of their names for fishes are very similar to the Greek name, making a lot of sense, as a traveling people is likely to name things new to them based on the names given by the indigenous population. The articles on every species also have a highly detailed black and white drawing of each animal. The great value to these is that it makes comparing the appearance of different fishes very easy, as every species is depicted in a similar style. It is too bad they could not be depicted to scale, but this would have had the sturgeon filling two pages while the anchovies would be the size of a period. Instead, the remarks on each fish give the average market length and a description of the typical color and markings.

The catalog entry also gives a paragraph or two on cuisine, which is a discussion of the culinary desirability of the species and typical ways in which the animal is prepared. For most fish, this includes methods by which the fish is butchered. The catalog entries also include a list of recipes and page numbers for these recipes in the second major section of the book.

The second major section divides recipes by country. The Mediterranean volume has chapters of recipes from Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, the Black Sea, and Northern Africa. The North Atlantic volume has recipes from Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Canada, the United States, Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales. France merits two sections, covering the southwest and the northwest. The US merits four sections, covering New England, the Middle Atlantic States, the Chesapeake, and the Carolinas and Georgia.

Other books, such as `Fish' by Shirley King seems to have copied this scheme, but seems to be much less successful in that not enough valuable information is packed into the catalogue to make it interesting enough reading to outweigh the annoyance of doing a two step search for a recipe on haddock, for example. The other side of the coin is that if you live in Maryland, you are much more likely to be interested in recipes from the Chesapeake than in recipes from Maine.

One is tempted to expect these recipes to be very generic and not as interesting as those you may find in books of `haute cuisine' from a fish specialist such as Eric Rippert. This is partially true. Davidson is less the great cook than he is a great writer on food. This means that while his recipes may come from common sources, he gives us much more information on the background of the recipes than the chef may do. Two perfect examples of this case are the recipes for bouillabaisse (French fish stew) and Maryland crab cakes. Davidson confesses to giving us something simpler than the `de luxe version', yet this simple treatment is entirely appropriate to the simple origins of the dish, before the gourmets got their hands on it. Similarly, the crab cake recipe has very few ingredients, mostly just crabmeat, seasonings, breadcrumbs, and enough egg to hold it all together.

The supplementary information tells much about the fish cuisine of both regions. The most interesting information is on the fact that while the Mediterranean is very shallow, it has relatively little continental shelf while the North Sea is practically all shelf, suitable to the spawning of young fish in shallow water. This does much to explain the popularity of the North Atlantic cod in peninsular Italy, virtually surrounded by water.

The bibliography shows that the author has based most of his material on local sources in native languages such as Polish, Turkish, and Portuguese. This may only help the multilingual scholar, but then it is the rare English culinary work that does this. One of the greatest things about these volumes is that all of this great material is available in trade paperbacks, which list for no more than $25.

These are must have books for devoted foodies!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compendium of marine life, and how to cook it., May 7, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: North Atlantic Seafood (Paperback)
An unusual format for a cookery book, or for a
catalog of marine life. In fact, it's both -
the first half of the book is a catalog of marine
species arranged by family (flatfish, molluscs,
etc.), while the second half is a catalog of
recipes for them, grouped by country of origin.

Although ostensibly North Atlantic in scope, the
tome omits some species which occur also in the
Mediterranean (the reader is referred to the
author's book covering that sea's life and
cuisine). However, Baltic Sea species are
included, although most of them are actually
freshwater types, due to the low salinity of the
Baltic.

Common names for most species are supplied in
several languages, according to the distribution
of the creatures. Differences in regional naming
are also noted. Fine sketches of each subject are
accompanied by notes on distribution, habitat,
etc., and pointers to appropriate recipes.

In the cookery section, there are no sketches, but
many of the recipes are accompanied by anecdotes
from the author's many travels. The instructions
are brief, but complete enough for successful and
tasty dining. In arranging dishes by geography,
each nation is represented only by a fraction of
its seafood, and some could easily be ascribed to
several countries.

In summary, a very good book (if you can find it).
It would be enhanced by use of colour instead of

of black and white pictures, and addition of some

pictures in the recipes section.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful cookbook and reference, August 5, 2000
By 
Amazon Customer (Cambridge, MA, USA) - See all my reviews
All the commonly-eaten fish and shellfish of the North Atlantic are covered in this wonderful reference and cookbook. As in his Mediterranean Seafood, each animal's entry includes an old engraving (better than a photo for identification -- except for color), its scientific and common names in various languages, a description of the animals habit's and culinary qualities, and a reference to recipes.
Recipes are organized by country, and are well chosen and edited. The only criticism I might offer is that it is hard to find recipes by type. That is, it's very easy to find recipes for mackerel or recipes from Portugal, but it's hard to find all the baked-fish recipes suitable for a dark-fleshed fish.
A great book like this should never be out of print!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars North Atlantic Seafood, April 8, 2013
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This review is from: North Atlantic Seafood: A Comprehensive Guide with Recipes (Paperback)
Haven't finished reviewing the book. More zooological info than I would like, and less receipes. However, appreciate its diversification. Got it because it was recommended by Andreas Viestad on Scandanavian cooking in his program about Bergen fish soup.
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5.0 out of 5 stars For fish geeks, December 8, 2008
By 
Jackal (New Hampshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: North Atlantic Seafood (Paperback)
If you (1) live close to the North Atlantic and (2) love fish and shellfish and (3) have a bit of geeky interest in details (maybe because you do your own fishing), this book is for your. All edible seafood in the North Atlantic is catalogued in this book. The book also offer a dictionary of species with translation to many languages.

If I offer critique I would say that the biological description of each species is fine, but that the culinary description could be improved. There is a recipe section (typical national dishes) and the culinary values are also identified when each fish is discussed. See, this is a book for fish geeks.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great cooking, March 6, 2013
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What can I tell you? When you avail yourself to people who love what they do, you too will benefit by their experience. This book will make you love cooking fish. Buy it!!!!!!!!! Use it!!!!!!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unselfish fish!, February 3, 2013
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This review is from: North Atlantic Seafood: A Comprehensive Guide with Recipes (Paperback)
Years ago I owned the book but hardcover. Because my Grandson simply loves cooking and of course enjoys the many recipes given - especially the "mouclade" so simple but so good! I had given it to him. I was so glad to find it still being printed. It is a wonderful book, and in today's new awareness of the benefits of eating fish, Mr. Davidson's book teaches us an awful lot!
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North Atlantic Seafood: A Comprehensive Guide with Recipes
North Atlantic Seafood: A Comprehensive Guide with Recipes by Alan Davidson (Paperback - April 14, 2003)
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