Even defenders of the Atlantic mackerel will admit that it’s an acquired taste, which is a polite way of saying a lot of people hate it. This month’s Gourmet has an interesting feature—crusade might be a better word—wherein the delightfully named W. Hodding Carter sets out to use a backyard smoker to make the fish edible to the public at large.

His entirely reasonable theory: If Southerners can choke down smoked mullet on crackers, Atlantic mackerel should be similarly susceptible to the magic of cool fire and long stretches of time. Why bother? Mackerel isn’t anywhere close to overfished, and it’s got double the omega-3 fatty acids of salmon.

The story is a bracing and quixotic tale of Man Versus Food: As you progress through its paragraphs, you get to observe the author’s smokehouse, recipes, and overall goals evolve as he plays with the project. It may not persuade you to eat baitfish, but it could inspire you to tackle something equally improbable and oddly inspiring.

See more articles