Sunday, July 25, 2010

Book Review - "Shrimp: The Endless Quest for Pink Gold"


Shrimp: The Endless Quest for Pink Gold by Jack Rudloe and Anne Rudloe. 2010. Financial Times Press, 251 pp. Hardcover.

Recently I saw an advertisement for Shrimp: The Endless Quest for Pink Gold on the All-Jimmy Buffett news site www.buffettnews.com. The book seemed like an appropriate subject for Buffett news given the importance of the line "Smell those shrimp they're beginning to boil" in His song "Margaritaville" so I bought it.

The small dimensions of the book and the large font make it seem like the 251 printed pages would have been many fewer with a few adjustments. The book is divided into 11 chapters that cover almost every possible aspect of the ecology of shrimp you could ever imagine wanting to know. For me the two most interesting chapters were number 8 "Turtles, TEDS and Troubles" that covered the controversy (now largely non-existent) that raged over the requirement to put Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) on shrimp nets, and chapter 9 "Wetlands and Real Estate" that delves into the issue of wetland loss and how it affects shrimp and almost every creature that is wetland related.

The bulk of the book deals with the ecology of the many species of shrimp, from their relationship with sea grass beds as foraging habitat, to the many ways shrimp can be cooked and served to the public. I had to chuckle when the authors included part of the quote by Benjamin Buford Blue (Bubba) in the movie Forrest Gump, where Bubba tells Forrest about all the ways you can prepare shrimp (and trivia fans be aware that Bubba mentions 21 different ways to fix shrimp).

I certainly learned a great deal about shrimp from this book which I guess was the point. My only disappointment was the repetition of information from one chapter to the next that happens occasionally. Once you read in chapter 1 about the "pink bodies glistening in the sun" as a net is pulled from the water, you simply don't need to read it again in every subsequent chapter - the bodies are still pink. Also, in trying to help distinguish one species of shrimp from the next, the authors get a tad bogged down with scientific names. That, however, is something on which most non-biologist readers won't pick up.

After reading this book I have a much better understanding of how my most favorite food item came to be. The next time I'm up on the Redneck Riviera of Florida (the Panhandle) and watch shrimp boats working the bay off Carrabelle, I'll be much more informed about what the shrimpers are doing and why, and more importantly about the future of the shrimp that they seek, thanks to the multitude of information packed into this little book.

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