“Cooking for Solutions”. “Fish Without a Doubt”. Strong words full of action, seasoned with vital rhetoric. The first names a conference at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the second a newly-released book. Sustainability is key, and never more so than in this very moment – in terms of the fish and seafood so many of us love to have on our plates.
We eat fish for taste, we eat fish for health, we eat fish for celebration too – and often the varieties we choose have names and faces as recognizable as Kobe beef or foie gras. The difference between Kobe, foie and fish is huge though – for both Kobe and foie are products farmed by man – not wild things as connected to nature as anything can be – with the inevitable chaos that being connected to nature has attached as part and parcel. Add the unfettered or fettered-in-bits-and-pieces effect of humanity upon the natural world and it seems that fish are in a pickle. Therefore so are we, and in more ways than one.
We’re losing options. Options for delicious things to eat and options even for affordability in many cases. The gulf widens between those who can and those who can not, as in so many things right now. Even those who sit in the catbird seat without need of concern about cost may find that eventually what they want to buy just simply won’t be there.
In an excellent article written in Grist the food served at the Cooking for Solutions conference at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is detailed by author Roz Cummins:
The food was lavish — proof that sustainability need not mean self-denial. At the reception, we were served oysters with a mignonette sauce, pasta with asparagus, little bits of beef served with a sort of Bordelaise sauce on top of some kind of blini or pancake, and sushi made from sustainable tuna from Hawaii. I haven’t had tuna sushi in years because it’s so hard to get sushi made from sustainable tuna. I greedily ate three pieces. I have missed the satiny texture of raw tuna, and the way that the sweet heat of the preserved ginger sets off the tuna’s dark, meaty taste.
I have a little antennae that perks up when hearing the key menu words listed above. “Foodie” it whispers. “Foodie”. It’s not the lovely side of foodie that my antennae is reminding me of, the side that lives to nurture but the alter-ego side. The side that wears fine food as fluffy feather in a big aspirational hat. To everything there is a season – and in the season for the average person who tries to eat as best they can on a daily basis, the menu above is not either usual nor attainable. It brings to mind conferences, functions, corporate dining scenarios, concepts wrapped within the chubby arms of certain food families whose availability has been fairly exclusive throughout time to the upper crust. And goodness knows that a loaf of bread is larger, much larger – than the crust alone.
My antennae squiggles unhappily as it worries about the average person and how and what they will eat, as they struggle with time and money and resources, not bites of raw tuna and drips or spoonfuls of Bordelaise sauce.
The newly released book Fish Without a Doubt by Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore mentioned in the above article is the featured selection of the new Gourmet Cook Book Club, with a review by Leslie Porcelli to start off the discussion:
In Fish Without a Doubt, chef Rick Moonen, of Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood, in Las Vegas, and coauthor Roy Finamore have drafted a blueprint for minimizing hand-wringing in the store and kitchen and maximizing pleasure at the table.
They address environmental and health concerns head-on, but perhaps the book’s best feature is its flexibility, which mitigates the fundamental challenge pertaining to seafood: Sometimes you simply will not be able to find the kind of fish you’re looking for (rarely a concern with chicken or beef).
It takes self-assurance to cook for solutions . . . and I’m not sure, myself, that one can ever be without doubt.
But the topic of sustainable seafood is worthy of thought if we want to be able to continue to taste the briny essence of oysters or the less exclusive tastes of their poorer less fashionable cousins swimming round in the big pond we perch on looking down upon it like the rulers of the Universe that perhaps (unwittingly or not) we are. We can’t get good seafood by merely turning the tap of a faucet. Not anymore.
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