The eel seems a prosaic animal lurking at the bottom of bodies of fresh water, but it has a most marvelous and surprising life cycle. Born in the Sargasso Sea, a vast sea in the Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Azores, eel larvae may drift thousands of miles before entering fresh water rivers in Europe and North America. Here, they spend their adult lives until they return down river to the ocean, and the Sargasso, to mate and die. Conjecture about this life cycle has occupied naturalists since Aristotle, just as the eel has occupied cooks since Greek times. It has played an important role in the cuisines of cultures around the world. Although it has recently fallen from favor in the U.S. and the U.K., it commonly graced both English and North American tables for centuries. It provided protein for London's poor during the Middle Ages and was a primary food source for the Mayflower pilgrims and other early European settlers in the United States, where it had long been much appreciated by native American peoples.

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