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Mother Linda’s Update

June 2005

New Jersey Shad Festival

I drove up to Lambertville, New Jersey a couple of weekends ago to attend a shad festival. The town is on the Delaware River and lies about five miles north from where Washington crossed the Delaware during the Revolutionary War. I was in search of shad. I have heard of its deliciousness and wanted to taste it for myself.

The town turned out to be a bit too touristy for my taste. Although shad symbols abound along the main street where vendors were selling shad and non-shad wares, there was almost no shad. The explanation included a spring flood and a very off-course St. Lawrence River whale that had had a heyday in the river—eating shad supposedly. And, due to the flood, the festival had been postponed until well out of shad season. Damns, overfishing, water pollution and dwindling habitat also contribute to making the shad fishery in the Delaware River and rivers up and down the East Coast just a fraction of the Colonial catch.

Still, one lone vendor was selling shad sandwiches. Dare I ask the provenance of said shad? I took a few pictures and leaned over the chef and whispered, “By the way, in light of fact there is no shad in the river, where is this shad from?” Ears perked up, even of the local reporter who had just finished his interview and had failed to ask this seminal question. “Oh, it’s farmed shad from North Carolina,” the chef replied, rather too proudly I think.  A disappointed murmur went through the crowd—but nobody got out of line.

In a few minutes, I got my sandwich—and took my first bite of shad, Alosa sapidissima. Shad has been called the “most savory” fish, but I could not say it was. Farming might have something to do with it. Shad is an anadromous fish that spends the majority of its adult life at sea, only returning to freshwater in the spring to spawn. When farmed, it could just swim around in circles for three to four years—which I believe would greatly impact the quality of the flesh. Next year, I hope the native shad are running again—and I’ll be able to taste some from the river.

The Hakluyt Society

Who was the first travel writer in the world? It might have been Richard Hakluyt, a British supporter of overseas colonization who chronicled voyages of discovery. His major work was The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques & Discoveries of the English Nation, published in 1598-1600. If you want to explore some of his writing topics, cruise over to www.abebooks.com, a bookseller who specializes in rare and hard-to-find books. Type Richard Hakluyt in the author space of the search engine, and it will generate a list of very interesting topics. Some are downloadable e-books, which are small sections of The Principal Navigations.

Of great value is the historically important treatise entitled Hakluytus Posthumous, a twenty-volume set of travelogues published by Hakluyt’s predecessor Samuel Purchas. Some selections of his chronicles are also available in e-book format, such as The discovery of the Hudson River by Master Henry Hudson in 1609 and his death in 1611: The second voyage of the Half Moon.

To learn more or join the Hakluyt Society, see http://www.hakluyt.com/index.htm. Check out the Exploration links.