Former Sitka resident Nicolaas “Nic” Mink — now the Urban Sustainable Foods Fellow at Butler University, Indianapolis — recently published the book Salmon: A Global History that highlights salmon in Sitka, Alaska, and the world.
The book is published by Reaktion Books, LTD, as part of The Edible Series, which features books about different types of food from around the world. The small hardback book is 127 pages with 49 illustrations (30 in color), recipes, bibliography, and index. It costs $18 in the United States ($9.99 on Kindle).
Nic used to lead the now-defunct Sitka Salmon Tours, which took visitors on a walking tour around Sitka to show them the different stages of salmon growth and processing, during the two-plus years he lived in Sitka and worked with the Sitka Conservation Society. He said many of the scripts he developed for the tours were incorporated into the book, which isn’t much longer than a traditional academic paper. Now that he lives in Indiana, Nic still has connections to Sitka’s salmon through a company he started called Sitka Salmon Shares, which markets sustainably caught salmon, halibut, sablefish (black cod), and other fish from Sitka and Juneau to residents of the Midwest United States.
While exploring the state of salmon throughout the world, Nic said he centered a lot of the book on Sitka’s salmon because of its place in the history of the fish. In addition to looking at the natural history of salmon eating, the book also examines cured, canned, and fresh salmon, plus the future of edible salmon. He writes about the role of salmon with Alaska Native cultures, how Alaska’s salmon industry was impacted when a British boy died from botulism after eating canned salmon from Ketchikan in the 1980s, the differences between wild Alaska salmon and farmed salmon, and more.
The book’s description, from the book jacket:
The story of salmon takes readers on a culinary journey from the coast of Alaska to the rivers of Scotland, tracing salmon’s history from the earliest known records to the present. He tells the story of how the salmon was transformed from an abundant fish found seasonally along coastal regions to a mass-produced canned food and a highly prized culinary delight.
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, cheap, and widely available, salmon is often listed as an essential part of any diet. A delicious and versatile fish, it can be used to make sashimi, cold smoked for lox, or shaped into a fishcake as an alternative to hamburgers. But while salmon is enjoyed all over the globe, it also swims at the center of controversy, with commercial fishing, global warming, and loss of freshwater habitats all threatening salmon populations and the ecological and health impacts of intense salmon farming under fire.