Monday, January 23, 2012

Rant: Stop Eating Cod, Tuna & Salmon

My advice for today: Stop Eating Cod, Tuna & Salmon.

Well, I am not really telling you to completely stop eating these fish but rather to expand your horizons and experience the full bounty of the sea. When dining, far too many people stick to familiar meats and seafood rather than being more adventurous, and even despite the fact that odder meats and seafood may be healthier and more sustainable. For example, I previously discussed the advantages of eating rabbit, noting its health benefits and sustainability. Yet not enough people eat rabbit, primarily for psychological reasons. Yet if we truly care about sustainability, we need to strongly consider these less common choices.

The February issue of Food & Wine magazine has an interesting section on Sustainable Seafood and there is an important quote from Chef Rick Moonen of RM Seafood in Las Vegas: "One of the best ways to fight overfishing is diversity: People must be willing to cook and eat species besides the familiar ones,..." He suggests that rather than enjoying tuna, cod, and salmon, people should eat more seafood like wild drum fish, snook, arctic char, cobia, and branzino. Practically, this makes plenty of sense, that eating less of the popular fish will allow their populations to rebound at a greater pace. The less commonly eaten fish often have plentiful populations so there are less concerns about sustainability.

For example, sardines are considered very healthy, rich in Omega-3s, minerals and B vitamins, and they are very sustainable as well. You can find them on some local menus, but once again, not enough people eat them. Most would rather order a tuna steak or broiled cod than a dish of fried sardines. Yet sardines are very tasty, which is also an important consideration. Europeans seem more apt to eat sardines, and I have enjoyed some superb sardine dishes in both Spain and Italy. Why doesn't the U.S. embrace sardines? It is primarily a mental obstacle, people unwilling to try something different.

In another article in that same magazine, the Trendspotting section mentions that whelks, a type of sea snail, are growing in popularity and notes that local Chef Tony Maws, of Craigie on Main, serves whelks. There is a newly emerging fishery in the Gulf of Maine which is gathering whelks, most which end up in Asian grocery stores in Boston and New York City. Chef Richard Garcias of 606 Congress has written about his recent experimentation with whelks and you will find whelks on the menu of other Boston restaurants as well like Coppa and Bondir. But this all requires diners willing to try the whelks, to order them rather than more common seafood dishes.

Get over your psychological barriers! Don't be afraid of something unfamiliar and take a chance on a different fish. It is time now to stop eating the same old fish all the time and experiment with less common seafood, to broaden your palate to the pleasure of whelks and sardines, cobia and mackerel. You will enjoy the tastes if you only give them a chance, especially if you dine at a good restaurant which knows how to properly prepare seafood. For the sake of sustainability, to save our oceans and all of the endangered species, this is an excellent choice and one you should seriously consider.  

So start eating sardines, whelks and other similar seafoods.


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Frederick Wright said...

Richard - You'll get no argument from me about this advice. The biggest problem is that the only restaurants likely to serve a sustainable diversity of fish species are generally at the top tier of the price scale, putting this option out of reach for most consumers.

Take a random sampling of the restaurant menus deemed 'affordable' and you will see ONLY the typical salmon and tuna, even cod has fallen out of fashion, replaced by the noxious farmed tilapia.

Myrna said...

Agree! In addition, fishermen inadvertently catch less known species of fish as "bycatch" and discard them because they can't sell them. If we learn to enjoy all that the ocean offers, fishers will earn a better living and there will be more fish to go around.

Marco said...

Good advice Richard. I'm very familiar with Sardines and eat them regularly, grilled, with skin, head and tail still on. They are delicious. But I can think of a couple turn offs for some people... If you cook them inside (usually fried), they will really stink up your house. Also, they are full of little bones that require a bit of skill and patience to pick out, something that most people don't want to deal with.

With all that said, I will not give up my salted cod, aka bacalhau in PT, never... :)

Restaurant Supply said...

I'm a huge fan of salmon because of it's ability to stand up to my grilling. Is there another fish that can be bone, skin free and yet just as healthy and easily grilled?

Couves said...

Locally caught mackerel is very good too -- and far milder than sardines or tuna. Just be sure it's fresh!

But my favorite "exotic" fish might be those little silvery butterfish.

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks for all the comments and glad to see others supportive of the idea of eating less common species.

Frederick, though I agree in general with your comment on pricier restaurants offering more diversity, there are exceptions in more ethnic restaurants. As two examples, Asian and Portuguese restaurants can often offer inexpensive prices but also the diversity you want.

Myrna, that is very true. Bycatch is a significant issue and we need to give fishermen more options of what they can catch and sell to consumers.

Marco, I understand your love for salted cod, which I agree is quite a treat. But, we must be careful as there are new studies that cod may be endangered even more than we thought.