Upstream: Searching for Wild Salmon, from River to Table

Wild food authority Langdon Cook (Fat of the Land; The Mushroom Hunters) has something to teach people who think of salmon as an easy-to-find, easy-to-cook red meat alternative. A captivating history of the ways of wild salmon, Upstream reveals the distinctions between sockeye, chinook, king, steelhead, pink, coho, rainbow, etc.--and their habitats--for those who might one day stand in line at Seattle's Pike Place Market, waiting on the first catch of Alaska's Copper River kings ("along with Bluefin tuna, it's the most in-demand fish on the planet").

Cook travels the Pacific Northwest to interview the anglers, fishmongers, environmental activists and bureaucrats involved in the major salmon river systems like British Columbia's Fraser, Washington's Columbia, California's San Joaquin and Idaho's Snake. He dons his Carhartts to work on the boats with commercial crews pursuing their catch with gill nets, reef nets and purse seines. He slips on waders to roll-cast for steelheads with a professional sport-fishing guide. Near the Cascade River's Bridge of the Gods, he listens to a Native American leader celebrate the salmon's role "as sacred to our religion, to our language, to our tradition and custom." Recognizing the myriad demands on the fragile wild salmon ecosystem, Cook tells a balanced and entertaining story of the challenges to preserving this millennia-old source of human sustenance and inspiration with its "strength, beauty, resilience... [and] a willingness to fight upstream." Happily, he also clearly enjoys a good day fly-fishing, followed by a perfectly cooked wild salmon fillet. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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