Home of the Cod

And this is good old Boston,

The home of the bean and the cod,

Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots,

And the Cabots talk only to God

Growing up in New England, the cod is a staple of any kitchen. My parents had two that they proudly displayed on top of our cabinets for all to see. Naturally I’m not talking about the actual state fish (can you imagine the smell?), but rather Gurgling Cods from Boston jeweler Shreve, Crump & Low.

GurglingCodGroupingIntroduced in 1964, the ceramic Gurgling Cod is an odd addition to the lineup that otherwise is filled with signet rings, diamond earrings, silver flatware, and other valuable jewelry acquired from various estates and suppliers. In fact, the cod causes somewhat of a rift internally at Shreve, Crump and Low, with former president Kevin Jenness commenting to Boston Magazine that an employee movement to remove the icon from their line surfaces every ten years or so.

Despite its irregularity among its creator’s wares and its vulgar appearance to some discerning employees’ eyes, it has become a mainstay of every New England home. Ranging from $55-$95, depending on size, it is often given as a housewarming or wedding gift and few people ever purchase their first cod for themselves.

Gurgling Cod is so named not simply for marketing reasons, but for the fact that it actually describes the act of using the pitcher. When liquid is poured from the pitcher, it comes out in “glugs” due to the trapped air in its tail. After pouring, the remaining liquid attempts to rush back into the tail but fights against the pressure of the trapped air causing a gasping gurgle of bubbles, sometimes even splashing up out of the cod’s mouth. It can be quite messy. So while completely functional as a pitcher, it rarely becomes more than a decoration, talking piece, or bookend in most homes. I’ve seen more than one family use it to bath their dogs.

Interestingly, Shreve, Crump & Low distinguish their product from the copies that have entered the market through its anatomically correct fins and flipper placement, claiming that this correct placement “will forever remind one of New England, whether viewed at our stores or anywhere in the world”. While I can’t say that I would know the difference if a fin was incorrectly placed, it’s a nice touch to be able to tell friends and family when they inquire about the peculiar ceramic fish you have inexplicably displayed in your living room.

Purchase a gurgling cod for a friend.

Alexander DeLuca

Alexander is a university administrator, author, and proud New Englander. He lives and works in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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