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Delicious Way to Sustainable Eating: Give Overlooked Fish New Names and Looks

Fish“Eating with a difference… ” It is a positive thought, not only for your body, but for the planet as well. Puzzled? Read on.

Many want to find out more about what they can do to help the planet recover from massive harvesting and exploitation. There are many ways to do that. Start with the way you eat. Because every human has to eat 2-3 full meals a day (or more), this can mean having a “planetful” of people (nearing the 8 billion-mark) contributing to saving the marine resources. This also means ensuring there will be more mouths to feed for more years.

How difficult is foregoing delicious seafood (snapper, grouper and such) sound? With creativity, you can give “trash fish” (low economic value catch) new names … try “delicious fish” for a change. To merit the name, dress them up in your kitchen! If cooking is something you love to do, and eating is anticipated with much gusto, your “noble” effort will not only be rewarded with something more than a palatable dish to grace your dining plate, but a happy palate and a pocket too! In return, you’ll be giving sustainable fishermen a much needed boost to their business, and you may not ask the question “Is eating seafood right?” again.

Appreciating New Names and Looks

You can better appreciate this school of thought with the blog Why These Overlooked Fish May Be The Tastiest (And Most Sustainable) written by Elizabeth Gunnison Dunn for Wall Street Journal.  Here’s the story of a nameless sustainable fisherman and the creative chef who inspired Gunnison and her readers:

“A FEW YEARS AGO, one of Charleston’s finest fishing boat captains approached chef Mike Lata with a problem: If business didn’t improve, he would have to hang it up. Federal quotas limited how much lucrative grouper and snapper he could catch, and while there were plenty of other fish for the taking, what he brought in barely sold for enough to cover gas. So, the chef made him a proposition:

“I told him on his next trip to bring us everything he caught, and we’d pay.” Mr. Lata and his cooks set to work on the catch—a grab bag of amberjack, banded rudderfish, mackerel, eel, lionfish and sea robin—and discovered that many of these fish were remarkably delicious. “This was great product, treated with care and attention, only the species names weren’t marketable. So, we decided to take care of the marketing side.”

Chef Mike is just one of those eco-friendly miracle workers who are doing “trash fish” (a name bestowed to those catch that are dumped to the trash when they are not sold) and their fishers a favor. He and his cohorts are showing the world how to transform these catch into gastronomic works of art that can be loved than trashed.

More Trash to Transform into Great Eats

Imagine three-fourth of the planet being covered by the salty water to get a good idea how much food potential is being talked about here. It is home to every imaginable species; virtually every animal class and phylum from vertebrates to invertebrates is represented here.

Unfortunately, with so much bounty and less people to feed, early foodies and chefs have cast their sights on but a few kinds – tuna, halibut, salmon, carps, sea bass, lobsters and kin, etc. Meanwhile, all others were ignored. The worst thing happened when they were called “trash.”

With a ballooning population, and a source of food that shrunk (literally and figuratively with reclamation, pollution, etc.), the way sustainable chefs and cooks look at these “trash fish” is being changed. They are not trash anymore. Rather, these are edible species that can be given new names and fanciful looks.

With the creativity of chefs like Chef Mike, and the following of iconic personalities, soon these catch will be fetching a good place in the menu. Anyone interested in giving Chef Mike and his cronies some help in getting these catches noticed only need to understand their tastes and textures to be able to give these species a “makeover.” And voila… a new fish is born!

Greeting the Challenge with Zest! Welcome to the Fold!

If you are just about to give that erstwhile insignificant fish a try, you are not an early bird to the cause. More and more chefs and restaurants are taking the challenge, and succeeding too. But it’s not too late; in this noble deed, everybody’s welcome to jump into this bandwagon now or later.

  • “Confronted by the copious overlooked species swimming off Massachusetts, Chef Michael Leviton is working on a trash fish cookbook. At Lumière in Newton, Mass., he regularly serves such underappreciated species as Acadian redfish and porgy.”
  • Would you eat goosefish or slimehead? Chances are, you already have, and just didn’t realize you were eating a re-branded trash fish. WSJ’s Jeff Bush reports.
  • “Diners have become very accustomed to chefs going to the farmers’ market and putting on the menu whatever is fresh and local,” said Barton Seaver, director of the Healthy and Sustainable Food program at Harvard’s School of Public Health. “We’re just beginning to see that sustainable menu philosophy applied to fisheries.”

Grant Achatz of Chicago’s Alinea, Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park in New York, Chef Theo Adley of Squeaky Bean in Denver, Chef Jonathon Sawyer of Greenhouse Tavern and Trentina in Cleveland, Ohio… they are all into this noble challenge.

For those who can’t seem to make “head or tail” about cooking, you can join by patronizing these chefs and their restaurants.  For those who are not so eager about the “green concept” of cooking trash to support planet sustainability, know that the idea goes beyond ecological rewards… the delicious novelty on the menu onto your plate will be delicious and cheap too. And don’t forget, eating fish is healthy. Hence, eating fish is a really good way to eat delicious, healthy and cheap.
Regardless of your motivation, jump on and let’s try these fishes with new names and looks.

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