Nova Scotia sea-vegetable advocate Taylor Widrig is hoping to lure a new generation into the depths with her debut book.
Widrig opens with a series of eight brief mermaid folktales from around the world, including the fearless African goddess Mami Wata and Sedna, caretaker of all Arctic Ocean creatures. Each tale concludes with a takeaway lesson, most of which are connected to love, respect, and feminine power.
A section on merfolk personality traits – they’re a playful but healthy minded lot – doubles as a call for water conservation and a brief introduction to food insecurities. This is where the guide transitions into more of a cookbook advocating for sea-vegetable consumption, introducing readers to the benefits of Atlantic seaweeds, including wakame, sugar kelp, and dulce.
Widrig, who owns a sustainable sea-cuisine company (not surprisingly called Mermaid Fare), positions the underwater plants as the cornerstone of a healthy mermaid lifestyle. Written in a conversational tone, Widrig’s scientific explanations are fascinating and age appropriate, but at points it is unclear exactly who this book is aimed at. For example, a warning about eating sea products while on thyroid medication seems directed more at a parent than a 10-year-old.
There is a good range of healthy recipes, including a few snacks and salads that do not require the use of an oven or intensive preparation. Many dishes, such as the sea-crusted baked fish with fiddleheads, are more sophisticated and will likely require adult supervision and a more mature palate. Not all the recipes feature sea products but a trip to the local health-food store might be necessary. For those who haven’t acquired a taste for seaweed just yet, Widrig also includes a handful of recipes for hair and body products.
Visually, the book is a delight, thanks to Dartmouth artist Briana Corr Scott’s charming mermaid illustrations, produced in a calming green that aesthetically holds the book’s varying parts together. Although Scott’s drawings, used to identify common sea vegetables, might better serve Atlantic readers, a landlocked audience will be left dreaming of future ocean visits.