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Sea Stories - March 2022

Seriously salty reads

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Bounty of the Sea 

Seafood is much like many of the other perishable items we pick up at a supermarket or specialty foods store—most of it is so easy to find year-round that we take it for granted and put little thought into where it came from or how it was harvested and processed. These three titles colorfully describe the people, culture and heritage behind some of the best-known American seafood fisheries. 

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Beautiful Swimmers 

Callinectes sapidus is the scientific name for the blue crab, an armored crustacean with weaponized claws and a grumpy disposition. The name translates loosely from Greek and Latin to “beautiful savory swimmer.” Though blue crabs can be found all along the East and Gulf coasts, Chesapeake Bay is often touted as having the most robust blue crab fishery anywhere. This is where William Warner embedded himself among the region’s crab fishermen in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Beautiful Swimmers. Warner worked alongside watermen such as trot-liner Lester Lee and crab-potter Grant Corbin, as well as crab scrapers and dredgers during the seasons. Warner’s descriptions of the characters in this industry, as well as the ecology behind the blue crab’s life cycle, make the book a delightful read. ($18, Back Bay Books)

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American Seafood 

Written by Barton Seaver, who also authored For Cod and Country and Two If By Sea, American Seafood: Heritage, Culture & Cookery From Sea to Shining Sea is a hefty, 500-plus-page volume that is a feast for both the eyes and palate. Inside are vibrant photographs of seafood harvesting and processing, as well as vintage black-and-white imagery dating back to the 1800s. The book tells the story of the people, places and legacy of the American seafood industry and how it weaves into our national history. In addition to being an author, Seaver is a chef. Scattered throughout the book are some of his recipes for charbroiled oysters, salt fish dinner, cioppino and many others that utilize ingredients sourced from American fisheries. ($50, Sterling Epicure)

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The Secret Lives of Lobsters

The closest contact many of us have had with a live lobster is looking through the glass of a seafood market tank. But there’s much more to this Northeast seafood staple than people think. The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson takes a literal deep dive with scientists and lobstermen off the Cranberry Isles in the Gulf of Maine to answer just about every question one might have about these tasty crustaceans, from preferred habitat (they love to back into anything shaped like a tube) to lobster-to-lobster encounters (they often bluff their way out of tense situations) to lovemaking (male lobsters mate with as many as four females in a season) and the lobster fishery itself. There’s even a chapter about ethically dispatching the critters before they hit the boiling salted water. ($15, Harper Perennial)

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I’ll Retire When I Die 

Profiled in the October 2020 issue of Soundings, 101-year-old Virginia Oliver has been lobstering on and off since she was 7, first with her father and years later with her child. Today, she continues the family tradition, working lobster traps with her 78-year-old son, Max, aboard the aptly named 30-foot lobster vessel Virginia. CBS Sunday Morning recently went aboard with Oliver and spoke with her about her exacting work ethic. Asked by correspondent Steve Hartman when she plans on retiring, Oliver says, “When I die.” You can read Oliver’s profile on our website and watch the CBS segment on YouTube at https://bit.ly/3mWo740.

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