The Smeltdog Man

“I brushed the crumbs off of the fish and back onto the counter, threw the smelts in the frying pan while I got the eggs out of the fridge and cracked one.”

The Smeltdog Man is the story of how a Cape Bretoner marshalled his accidental invention, a marijuana-induced, munchie-inspired Smeltdog, into the most successful fast food franchise in Canada. As president of his newly formed Good Karma Corporation, he tells the tale of how his business empire grows beyond his control, turning him into a billionaire. (available only as a Kindle book on Amazon)

Macdonald's new book takes fun look at classic Cape Breton fare |  Lifestyles | Cape Breton Post

A copy of this book was sent to me by Silverbelle Solveig, who said the author and I were birds of a feather. She’s right, and I knew how to be in touch with Frank Macdonald, the author, I’d invite him to join us in the Jungle. This book is a farce, so if you have difficulty inhabiting a world defined by silliness, you will not be able to abide this one. If, however, you find satire to be a meaningful way to communicate big picture truths, then you might enjoy the Smeltdog Man’s worldview.

It also reminded me of my first novel, written fresh out of college, called Foodball about a guy who built a fast-food empire around the concept of taking your burger, fries, and thick shake, putting them through a grinder, shaping them into a ball, and frying them, resulting in one complete, golden meal pellet called the Foodball. The problem (among many) was that I wrote it as a serious screed, and I really had nothing to say. It resides, unread, in a binder on my bookshelf.

(This review was published, briefly and prematurely, in a previous SD. I re-publish it here so that it will have a permanent place in our Jungle Pantheon. SB SM)

by SB SM

Why, you may ask, is a Silverback reading a book about European eels? What can a slithery, snake-like fish that breeds (we think) in the depths of the Sargasso Sea have in common with an intelligent, hairy creature who lives in the Jungle highlands oft Africa.

A lot.

The Book of Eels lies at the intersection of art, religion, science, and history. Author Patrik Svensson is an arts and culture journalist at a Swedish newspaper. In this, his first book, he deftly interweaves the science of the species with its a historical role in various cultures. The subtitle of the book is “Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World.” What? More mysterious than Silverbacks? Consider this:

Anguilla Anguilla, the European eel
  • While humans and gorillas have been present on the plane for maybe 250,000 years, eels have been around for more than 40 million. They have survived Ice Ages and continental separation.
  • While gorilla behavior has been scrutinized and observed in minute detail, eels have been studied by the greatest minds on the planet, from Aristotle to Freud to Rachel Carson, and yet to this day no human has ever witnessed eels mating.
  • The eel lifecycle is like the salmon’s, but in reverse. They originate in the Sargasso Sea, a biologically rich section of the Atlantic Ocean bordered by four major ocean currents. They live their lives in fresh water, however, often hundreds of miles from the ocean. No one knows how they know where to go. Eventually, they return to the Sargasso, presumably to mate and die, although no one has been able to verify this.
  • Eels can go as long as 6 months without feeding, traveling all the while.
  • Eels have been known to live as long as 150 years in captivity. They have the ability to suspend the own development processes.
  • Stories abound about their extraordinary resilience. They can travel across dry land, live in both salt and fresh water, and even, apparently, come back from the dead.

But eels and Silverbacks do have one thing in common. They are both endangered species, and in each case, Homo Sapiens is at fault. It’s a oft-told tale. While our species thrives thanks to reckless and relentless consumption of resources, others pay the price.

The story may be oft-told, but its meaning is so consequential that it justifies the repetition. Author Svensson, has found a novel and engaging way to convey the message. Throughout the book he intersperses personal anecdotes of his memories and lessons learned from fishing for eels with his father. The father-son story, deftly told, becomes a parable or metaphor of the current state of the species, Anguilla Anguilla, as well as implications for our own mortality.

What especially appealed to me about The Book of Eels is that it presented enough science to teach me something, enough history to show me the author had done his research, enough poetry to tell a meaningful story, and enough philosophy and religion to make me believe in magic. It proved a more rich and enjoyable experience than I ever expected from the lowly eel.

3 thoughts on “The Smeltdog Man

  1. Hi Step, Really enjoyed this mornings SB column. Hopefully readership is increasing? Do you remember Vick Landry? I believe he & his wife lived in Randy’s house. His wife was from France and Jack Baker would tell me, go get some eels & put them in the buckets (one with a zillion holes drilled in it went into the larger one) seems this reduces the slime on their skin? Making it easier for them to handle. Vick’s wife would filet them, cook them & Vick, his wife & Jack would have a feast! I tried it a couple of different ways, I thought it was OK, but not a fan. I’m sending a video of the Epaulette shark. This unique shark can do amazing things, walk, shut its body down 80%! I think you’ll find it interesting. Keep up the great work, Stay safe Be good, Steve & Bethy PS, Hugs to the Pretty one😎

    Sent from my iPad


    1. The eel story was scheduled for next week, but somehow it escaped early. Kinda like an eel. I do remember Vic Landry. We used to go fishing for eels at Town River. The only way I’ve eaten them is in sushi. Thanks for the kind words! I hope all is well. SB SM

      On Tue, Jan 26, 2021 at 7:53 AM The Silverback Digest wrote:


  2. Hi Step- Thanks for the recommendation of Book of Eels…on our list. Passing along great “natural world” reads by amazing Sy Montgomery – NH author/Globe columnist.Latest for kids and adults = How to be a Good Creature…The Soul of an Octopus = amazing and you will never eat calamari again… *Sy Montgomery* (born February 7, 1958), is a naturalist , author and scriptwriter who writes for children as well as adults. She is author of 28 books, including *The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness*, which was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction and was on The New York Times Best Seller list . Her most popular book is *The Good Good Pig*, the bestselling memoir of life with her pig, Christopher Hogwood. Her other notable titles include *Journey of the Pink Dolphins *, *Spell of the Tiger*, and *Search for the Golden Moon Bear *. She has been described as “part Indiana Jones , part Emily Dickinson “.[1] Her book for children, *Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea* was the recipient of the 2007 Orbis Pictus Award and was selected as an Honor book for the Sibert Medal .[2] Happy reading! Mike and Cyndy .

    On Tue, Jan 26, 2021 at 7:01 AM The Silverback Digest wrote:

    > Stephen Morris posted: ” by SB SM Why, you may ask, is a Silverback > reading a book about European eels? What can a slithery, snake-like fish > that breeds (we think) in the depths of the Sargasso Sea have in common > with an intelligent, hairy creature who lives in the Jungle” >

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