Archive for the ‘Sustainable Seafood’ Category


Click here to view J.W. Buell Slideshow of ‘Sea and Land’ by stevelewalready (It’s possible to open this tab along with the music video at the same time . . . if you are so inclined – you’ll have to open another window. I rather enjoy the mix, myself.)

Welcome to the Jungle.

Hungry? Get your Sustainable Seafood Recipes right here.

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“Just got back from dinner out”, my uncle said on the telephone. “Lobster again. Everyone’s selling it so cheap. Huge lobster dinners for less than ten dollars. Lobster’s going downhill. Less than four dollars a pound.”

My uncle lives in Maine. The price of lobsters in Maine (like the price of tea in China) may or may not have a huge amount to do with a general discussion of food, but it means a lot to me.

It means a lot to me because my family is from Maine, and because of that lobster is in my blood. Lobster is a part of me.

My mother and her brother my uncle-who-eats-lobster-dinners-out and who gives me the lobster news by telephone both grew up in Maine. I lived there for part of my early childhood. My cousins, three boys (now men actually, how soon we forget!) – have lived there all their lives. My uncle stayed in the place of the lobster. My mother ran from it.

But regardless of my mother’s fast exit from the state for Bigger Places, lobster is in my blood. Because she came from the place she came from I know the smell of the damp North woods with trees that close out the light in the sky. I know pine trees, sticky with their hint of turpentine scent. A clear cold light in a sky with no clouds enclosing the sharp red brick edges of a factory town – its bell tower centered with clock hands stuck in some position of time edged into decades ago, as two or three white church steeples careen into the heights vying for position of power as close to the center of town as possible . . . I know that too because of the place she came from. The dank smell of a lake with small wooden docks proudly rotting into the edges of it, motorboats bobbing alongside as drifts of moving water shift them – dribbles of lost gasoline adding its urgent essence to the smell of gunky lake bottom. Snow of brilliance is something I know. I can smell it, if I say the word. Snow. It is acrid, sharp, burning the nose and most delightful. Snow is not mushy gray stuff. Snow is a trumpet of glory, deep and new. A moose is not a thing named Bullwinkle from a cartoon but rather a large ancient-looking skinny-legged animal who peers out from the edges of woods near roads at the cars going by as the cars peer right back. But mostly, more than all these things, I know lobster.

Knowing how to cook it is part of it. Knowing as a natural thing how to get every sweet drop of meat out of the curled shell is another part of it. But the eating, the cooking – that’s the least of it, really.

I once caught my own lobster. It was during a time I lived on a boat, a wooden sailboat to be exact. The setting fit in with my deep-set Pippi Longstocking internalization, but Pippi, as far as I know, never caught a lobster. I’d made a fish trap out of chicken wire, just because I could. And I tossed it over the side of the boat tied up there to the dock at City Island and each day fish would be trapped by this charming and useful device. Blackfish, flounder, small nameless whatevers. Then one day I pulled up a lobster. It was mean and snappish, quick-moving and vicious. Finally I extricated it from the trap and cooked it and we ate it. It was not a Maine lobster. It meant nothing to me.

My mother who ran from Maine as soon as she could, would tell me lobster tales as she raised me in other places. “Now Maine lobstermen” she would start – and her Maine accent, the accent I did not have – would become stronger to the point where it almost sounded like Old English from a fairytale – “Maine is the only place that has lobstermen like this. Independent!” she’d announce. “Independent! They do what they please and they don’t let anyone tell them otherwise!” And we, my mother and I, were somehow part of the Maine lobstermen. We too were independent. We too somehow relied on the lobsters and the generosity of the sea to give us life – no matter that we lived far from the sea in an apartment with a Persian cat named Princess Puff who I believed somehow was my sister (lacking a real one) and that the closest either one of us came to fishing was when we lifted the tiny tropical fish out of the aquarium in the living room when we had to clean it – our tool of trade being a little blue net the size and heft of a cotton ball.

Now New England in general has a thing for being independent. “Live Free or Die!” cries New Hampshire. Vermont is the place to go if you want to start a commune in any century. Rhode Island of course grew Newport so is unassailable in all rights. Massachusetts (aside from being impossible to spell correctly) had the Bay Colony and is big, so you’d better understand how independent it is. Connecticut is an afterthought of course but Greenwich makes a stand for a new variety of new-money independence.

But how can any of these come close to matching me myself and I who is a lobsterman in my mind, with salt spray in my hair and a lobster-trap dripping from my strong independent hand? How can any of these even think they can approach the swell of the sea and the salt spray on my yellow slicker as I pull up my lobster pots filled (or sometimes not filled but that is part of my independent life) with grasping primeval sea-bugs clattering sharp claws and waving springy tentacles at my approach?

“Independent cusses” my mother would say, and she’d smile one of her small rare smiles. A rising sense of power made a trajectory straight out from within her and my seven-year old heart adored her for it. My mother was a lobster, and a big one. There was no denying it.

Lobster is in my blood. It runs through my veins directly into my heart. Lobster is me, myself, and I – when I stop to think about it.

And that’s what has to do with the price of lobsters in Maine.

This is also what has to do with the price of lobsters in Maine. It’s from The Bangor Daily News of October 16, 2008:

The boat price of lobster hovered near the $4 mark throughout much of the summer, according to some fishermen, but in recent weeks it has dropped rapidly to $2.50 and then to $2.25. There are reports that in some areas lobstermen are getting just $2 a pound.

Fishermen say they can’t afford to fish with the price of lobster at around $2 a pound.

“Four dollars is the break-even point,” said Dick Bridges of Deer Isle. “At $4, you might even make a little money.”

There’s been some discussion of limiting the lobster catch in order to stave off a full-fledged market glut. Many fishermen can’t afford not to fish, however, and continue, hoping to sell lobster where they can.

The crisis in Maine is tied directly to the collapse of Icelandic banks which were key lenders to processors in Canada, according to Dane Somers, executive director of the Maine Lobster Promotion Council. Without ready credit from those banks, Canadian processors don’t have the cash to purchase lobster from Maine, Somers said.

The credit crunch hit Canada early in October, Maine’s peak season for lobster production and value, according to the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.

October is the time when fishermen make the bulk of the money they need to see them through the winter months. They’re worried about what will happen if things don’t turn around.

“This couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” Somer said. “And this is not going away right away.”

On average annually, between 45 percent and 50 percent of Maine lobster is sent to processors in Canada. At this time of year, however, 70 percent of the catch usually goes to Canada, but processors there are not buying.

According to the MLA, there are a number of reasons for that. The international credit problem is one. There also are reports that some processors already have inventory on hand and that others are operating at less than full capacity so they don’t create more supply than they can sell.

What to do? Here, from central Maine where Bangor lies (say Ban’-Guh) is an idea: A Thanksgiving Lobster Dinner.

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Rumor has it that lobster and clams don’t taste the same bought in town rather than at the lobster pound. This is entirely true, so a drive to the lobster pound set way out on the dock where waves crashing up against the rocky shore spatter saltwater onto your face is always the first step to do for anyone who wants a Shore Dinner.

Back at camp (“camp” being Maine slang for a summer house on a lake) big pots the size of small steamships are set on the stove. The grownups start their dinner with lashes of stiff libations – usually gin and tonics.

They always drank heavily in those days but never appeared to be inebriated, aside from the same jokes reappearing year after year as if they were new . . . and for the occasional slurred word. We children jumped in and out of the lake eating potato chips, cashew nuts or Cheetos – whatever could be caught up in a fast handful while throwing the bent and battered plastic Frisbee to the wet smelly archetypical Golden Retriever wandering from family to family endlessly through the summer days, amiable tail slowly wagging, panting big pink tongue ever-so-slightly drooling.

The call to “Come Eat!” brought us to a table ready-set with piles of grayish-silver steamer clams. They were the color of city sidewalks, their long black necks sticking out rudely like ugly tongues. Eating them was both a grim challenge and a titillating delight – how gross they really were! – chewy with a slight hint of underlying bitterness, a textured blend of rubber cement and jelly with the occasional bit of grit to hit teeth with resounding crunch.

The grownups switched down to beer for the meal, the kids poured themselves kool-ade, the ice clinking into the tall glasses from plastic flower-decorated pitchers. Then, with a whiff of dense essential sea rising from them, the lobsters arrived.

Huge platters came out from the kitchen carried by the women with much pomp and circumstance – each one piled with a tangle of jolly red lobsters still steaming from the pots they’d been dunked in head-first such a short while ago, kicking, snapping, and still alive – to boil just five minutes to fragrant sweet perfection.

Everyone grabbed their lobster, a lobster cracker, a lobster pick, and set to work with serious and messy intent, for each piece of meat had to be dunked quickly in the only thing God put lobster down on this earth for: drawn butter.

There was corn on the cob and potato chips and sometimes a little salad. That was it, and that was enough.

When every bit of lobster had been pulled, squeezed or tormented out of its shell, we ran to the lake to wash off all the sticky bits while the fireflies timidly started to blink in the gathering dusk.

The dragonflies drew ever-lazier circles in the air around us till it was time for dessert: strawberry shortcake – a simple thing – sweetened warm biscuits drenched with juices of crushed berries picked almost-melting that same day. Sweeter than any Popsicle invented those berries were, and the freshly whipped cream was generously ladled out, falling sideways in huge mounds over the top.

When night had truly fallen, when it was so dark nobody could really see the face of who they were talking to, one of my three boy cousins would usually try to stick a small frog or some other disgusting thing down the back of my bathing suit as we played near the lake. I’d scream and run and cry while the boys just laughed their heads off. My aunt would scold them vigorously (something they seemed immune to), and off we went to bed.

That’s a Shore Dinner as I remember it, at the end of a warm summer’s day when I was a child. I hope it still exists, within driving distance of the Maine shore, for those who live there now.


Postscript: Maine lobster is on the list of “sustainable seafoods”.

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Today foodvox will be cuddling up with some nice mahi-mahi for dinner.

First you must catch your rabbit mahi-mahi and as with most things there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. For most of us without large fishing boats which we could jump on and heave-ho for a day on the open sea the right way would be to talk to whomever is at the fish counter. This can be a challenging task at times, when the fish counter happens to be at a place similar to my local Kroeger, where the fish looks daunted and limp and often so do the college-aged kids left in charge of it. Most of the vast store of knowledge about fish to be found at these sorts of fish counters can be found in the form of silly little cardboard index cards printed with cute recipes with photos. No, you will not find the wisdom of the ages here, but as someone once said “Understanding begins with dialogue” so you may as well begin one.

Hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to find mahi-mahi at the counter in reasonably fresh condition. Ask if they know how it was caught. If they don’t know, ask them if they could ask their manager or if the manager is not there (funny how often they aren’t!) ask them to take a look in the spec books or receiving log. Oh yes they will flounder and growl and look as if the weight of the world has been placed upon them at your asking these things of them. But honestly who gives a sh*t. Maybe they’ll learn something or alternately maybe they’ll decide to get a job at The Dollar Tree – and good riddance.

Mahi-mahi gained widespread popularity as a fish for the table within the time-span of the existence of the word “foodie”. It is a fish popularized by chefs in upscale restaurants and once was a fish for the aspirational – but that is no longer the case. It still holds style and substance, mahi-mahi – but now is widely available and fairly affordable in general.

Wiki has a good piece on mahi-mahi.

When they are removed from the water, the fish often change between several colors (this being the reason for their name in Spanish Dorado Maverikos), finally fading to a muted yellow-grey upon death.

Mahi-mahi is one of the fastest-growing fish. They are fast swimmers as well, with a top swimming speed of 50 knots. Mahi-mahi spawn in warm ocean currents throughout much of the year, and its young are commonly found in sargassum weed.

Mahi-mahi are carnivorous, feeding on flying fish, crabs, squid, mackerel, and other small fish. They have also been known to eat zooplankton and crustaceans. Mahi-mahi has a chicken-like taste and texture, but some restaurants will substitute a soft flaky white fish instead of real Mahi-mahi because it is cheaper. According to Seafood Watch, imported Mahi-mahi is currently on the list of fish that American consumers, who are sustainability minded, should avoid. Domestic Mahi-mahi, however, is considered acceptable by both Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Blue Ocean Institute. It is recommended to consume the pole- and troll-caught species of this fish, as it limits bycatch of other animals.

Now to the recipe.

Mahi-mahi takes to pairing well with flavors that add spark to its basic personality. Today we’re going to cuddle up to the Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Pineapple-Mango Salsa, Green Rice and Black Beans in this excellent recipe.

Granted, by the time you’ve caught your fish and gathered your groceries it may be more than you want to do on a fine day like today to approach this recipe. In this case, mahi mahi takes well to a quick blackening with cajun spices then a turn under the broiler or on the grill – the other recipe can wait till another weekend.

Mahi-mahi is great to cuddle with.

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