Friday, May 14, 2021

Pizza History in the U.S. (Part 2): The True Origin of Hawaiian Pizza


Do you like pineapple on your pizza? This topping generates much passion, both for and against its inclusion on pizza. No other topping seems to cause such controversy. So, what led someone to first decide to add pineapple to a pizza, creating a Hawaiian Pizza? 

The most widely accepted origin tale, and which is rarely contested, is that a Canadian invented Hawaiian pizza in 1962. However, that isn't the truth. Hawaiian Pizza existed for at least five years before its alleged invention in 1962. 

First, let's examine the popular origin story. Sam Panopoulos, a Greek-born Canadian, operated the Satellite Restaurant in Chatham, Ontario. Initially, the restaurant didn't even serve pizza as it was still difficult to find anywhere in Canada. When they started to expand their menu, adding some Chinese cuisine, they also decided to make pizza. In 1962, Sam and his brothers decided, as a lark, to add some canned pineapple to a pizza, allegedly calling it Hawaiian Pizza after the name on the can. Initially, their customers didn't like the Hawaiian pizza, so eventually, after some experimentation, they added ham to the pizza, and the combination became much more appealing to their customers.

The problem is that there are documented references to Hawaiian Pizza several years before 1962. 

On February 1, 1957, Francine's Pizza Jungle opened in Portland, Oregon, and their initial advertisement stated they served over 30 varieties of pizza. 

In the Oregonian (OR), February 7, 1957, they had another advertisement, this time which added a menu, showing all of their international and creative pizzas. What an innovative list of pizza topping combinations! Jungle Pizza, Chinese Pizza, Danish Pizza, Hungarian Pizza, Spanish Pizza, Swedish Pizza, and much more. A French Pizza with frog legs, a Jungle Pizza with cocktail fruit, an English Pizza with pork and beans. 

One of those selections was also a Hawaiian Pizza, topped with pineapple, papaya, and chopped green pepper. This is the oldest reference I've found to savory Hawaiian Pizza, predating Sam's alleged invention by five years. Unfortunately, the restaurant only lasted a few months, at least into May. It's certainly possible that another restaurant created a Hawaiian pizza even before Francine's, but I haven't seen any evidence of such. 

This wasn't the only mention of Hawaiian Pizza which predated Panopoulos's alleged invention in 1962.

The Quad City Times (IA), September 24, 1958, printed a recipe for Hawaiian Dessert Pizza, which included pineapple. That same recipe was also published in a number of other newspapers, across the country, including Mississippi, Ohio, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Florida, Indiana, Georgia, and Michigan. Yes, this was a dessert pizza rather than a savory one, but it still used the name and was still pineapple atop pizza. 

The Philadelphia Inquirer (PA), August 23, 1959, mentioned a snack of "Hawaiian Pizza," although no description was provided, so it's unclear whether it referred to a savory or dessert pizza.  

Another dessert pizza recipe. The Monroe News-Star (LA), October 7, 1959, also had a recipe for Hawaiian Pizza, but it was a different recipe from the one published in 1958.

Locally, the Boston Daily Record, February 17, 1961, had an advertisement for the Desert Lounge, in Roxbury, noting that Italian cuisine was their speciality. In addition, they boasted, “First time Anywhere. Irish, Jewish, Hawaiian Pizza.” So, Hawaiian Pizza was available in Boston the year before its alleged invention by Panopoulos in 1962. 

As we have seen, Sam Panopoulos wasn't the first to add pineapple to a pizza. He also wasn't the first to coin the term "Hawaiian pizza." At best, he might have been the first to make a pizza with pineapple and ham, but even that is questionable. 

And there's more Pizza History to come....

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Pizza History in the U.S. (Part 1)

When's the last time you ate pizza? I suspect that for many people, it's been no longer than a week or so since you last enjoyed a slice. Pizza, that simple blend of bread, cheese and sauce, is delicious! Plus, it is such a versatile food, available in a myriad of variations, dependent on your preferences. 

According to Statista, there are about 78,000 pizza restaurants in the U.S., generating about $46 Billion in sales each year. This is roughly twice the number of Chinese restaurants. California, with about 7300 pizza restaurants, has more than any other state, with New York coming in second place with about 5700 and Texas in third place with about 5200. Massachusetts, with about 2300 pizza restaurants, comes in 9th place.  

It seems likely that these numbers don't include every restaurant, bakery, grocery store, or other food spot that might sell pizza as a minor item, and doesn't qualify as a "pizza restaurant." So, pizza is available in far more than just the 78,000 pizza restaurants. 

There are also a significant number of different pizza styles, mostly regional ones, available in the U.S. And nearly anything can be added to a pizza as a topping, creating a vast diversity of pizza, from Breakfast pizza to Dessert pizza. I'm a huge pizza fan, and there have been days in the past when I ate pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Like many foods, the origins of pizza are murky, with numerous claimants stepping forward to allege that they were the initial creators. Pizza itself likely has its origins in ancient Greece or Rome, over 2000 years ago, when flatbreads were topped with olive oil, cheese, and fish. Tomatoes were native to the Americas and didn't arrive in Europe until the 16th century, although it initially had a bad reputation, as some Europeans believed they were poisonous. Around the 19th century, people in Naples began making pizza with tomatoes, creating Pizza Neapolitan.

It is thought that Pizza Neapolitan was introduced to the U.S. in the late 19th century by Italian immigrants. The origins of pizza in the U.S. are also murky although the most common origin tale is that the first pizzeria in the U.S. was established in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi in New York City. However, Peter Regas has uncovered evidence to directly dispute this origin tale, pushing back the known history of pizza in the U.S.into the 19th century. Unfortunately, we've only seen bits of this new evidence as Peter is planning to release a book on his pizzeria research in the future.

I'm going to present a selected history of pizza, hitting some highlights, trying to showcase some firsts, mainly in the U.S.. This is a work in progress though, and will be expanded in the future based on additional research.

Let's begin with a newspaper article from London, which sounds like a strange place to start when discussing pizza in the U.S. However, this article is one of the earliest known in English that described Neapolitan pizza in some detail. It provides some fascinating details at a time when Neapolitan pizza was largely confined ti Italy. 

In The Morning Post (London), December 17, 1860, there was a lengthy section in an article, Politics & Society in Naples, about Neapolitan pizza. It stated, “Well, the pizza is a favourite Neapolitan delicacy, which is only made and eaten between sunset and two or three in the morning, and it must be baked in five minutes in the oven; at the very moment when it is ordered it is pulled out of the oven and served up piping hot, otherwise it is not worth a grano." The pizza was only available at night? No pizza for lunch or breakfast. 

The article continued, describing how it was made. "The pizza baker takes a ball of dough, kneads it, and spreads it out with the palm of his hand, giving it about half the thickness of a muffin, then pours over it mozzarella, which is nothing more than rich cream beaten almost like a cream cheese; then he adds grated cheese, herbs and tomato, puts the cake—which, made after this fashion, is termed the pizza—just for five minutes into the oven, and serves it up as hot as possible. The cheese and the cream are of course all melted and unite with the herbs and tomato. The outside crust must, in the case of a perfect pizza, possess a certain orthodox crispness." Simple toppings, cheese, tomatoes and herbs. 

And pizza was popular with all social classes of Naples. As the article noted, "Now, at this season of the year there is no person, high or low. From the first Neapolitan duke to the lowest lazzaroni, with whom it is not a primary article of faith to eat pizza. The pizza cake is your only social leveler, for in the pizza shops rich and poor harmoniously congregate; they are the only places where the members of the Neapolitan aristocracy—far haughtier than those in any other part of Italy—may be seen masticating their favourite delicacy side by side with their own coachmen, and valets, and barbers

A bit of significant criticism was added, "The pizza shops are about the filthiest in Naples, and whoever knows Naples will admit that is saying a good deal. They are generally in the meanest alleys and in the midst of the most disreputable quarters. No matter, at this season of the year, they are thronged all the same.” Would that make you want to dine at these pizzerias?

Some variations of Neapolitan pizza existed, although not everyone approved to the alterations. “There are other modes of preparing the pizza, by the substitution of freshly caught anchovies, for slices of sausage, or mushrooms for the cream and grated cheese; but the highest authorities on these points treat with disdain all such modern innovations, and protest that a pizza compounded after that fashion has no right to the name at all.” 

************

Back to the U.S. During the first 40 years of the 20th century, most of the references, in American newspapers, to pizza and pizzerias were advertisements and legal notices. There were very few articles that explained or described the nature of pizza. As such, many Americans during this period probably knew little, if anything, about pizza unless they happened to live in an Italian neighborhood. Some of the earliest pizzerias weren't even mentioned in the newspapers until many years after their founding. Thus, it's difficult to determine that nature of the pizza that was served at some of these establishments.  

The earliest newspaper reference I found, concerning pizza, was in Boston Daily Globe, December 18, 1905. It was briefly noted that the Pizzeria Napolitina was located in New York City at 53 ½ Spring St. This was the address of the famed pizzeria of Gennaro Lombardo, which some claim was the first pizzeria in the U.S. 

A few years later, on the West Coast, the L’Italia (CA), September 18, 1908, published an advertisement for the Pizzeria Napolitana in San Francisco. So, pizza had already spread across the country but during the next thirty years, most of the new pizzerias would appear on the East Coast, from New York to Florida.  

According to Dining Out in Boston: A Culinary History, by James C. O'Connell, a North End bakery, Giuseppe Parziale’s, which opened in 1908, served pizza. 

During the next twenty years, a number of pizzerias would open, although obviously not all of them were mentioned in the newspapers. The Standard Union (Brooklyn, NY), January 11, 1917, mentioned Café Pizzeria while the Evening Bulletin (RI), August 29, 1919, noted Torino Pizzeria Restaurant in Lakewood. The Yonkers Statesman (Yonkers, NY), July 14, 1922, had an ad for the Modern Spaghetti House, which served “Italian Pizzeria Napolitanna.” 

In 1925, Frank Pepe opened a bakery in New Haven, Connecticut, and one of the items he sold was pizza. Then, in 1937, he moved his business next door and opened the famed Frank Pepe Pizza Napoletana.  The Times Union (NY), March 17, 1927, stated people were “all going over to ‘Minnee’ (Carmine Placente) the Pie-man’s Pizzeria” while the Delaware County Daily Times (PA), March 31, 1927, referenced Barbiero’s Pizzeria on 176 North Main Street.

The first instance of the use of the term "pizza pie" was in the Delaware County Daily Times (PA), January 12, 1926, in an ad for sale concerning, “oven fresh Pizza pie Mobile Units.” It seems some wanted mobile pizza ovens, possibly to set up at festivals, fairs, and other such events. 

The American Guardian (OK), May 24, 1929, was one  of the first newspapers to provid some clarity on the nature of pizza. It noted, “Pizzeria is a bakery which specializes in pizza, a pie served with anchovies and tomato sauce and dear to the Neapolitan palate.” So, it seems many pizzerias were considered bakeries, and not restaurants. The article also seems to indicate that Neapolitan pizza came with anchovies, an ingredient often mentioned with pizza during this period. 

The first pizzeria in Harlem opened in 1932. The New York Age (NY), January 23, 1932, discussed a new restaurant in Harlem, Napoli, a pizzeria and spaghetti house at 594 Lenox Avenue. A number of pizzerias during this time were accompanied by a spaghetti house. The menu listed “Pizza alla Napolitana, an Italian pie-like dish, the main elements being cheese and tomatoes, and furnishing a filling and enjoyable meal” 

The article continued, “It is pronounced ‘pitza,’ and be sure, when it is served the first time, to ask the waiter to show you how to eat it, for to enjoy it, you use your fingers.”  No need for a knife and fork. Although today, most people use their fingers to eat pizza, it was still an unfamiliar dish to many in the early 20th century, so they needed some guidance, and to understand they didn't need utensils to eat a slice of pizza. 

The first reference to an Italian Tomato Pie was in The Bristol Daily Courier (PA), June 22, 1933, in an ad for “La Pitza (Italian Tomato Pie)”and there was a later reference in the Central NJ Home News (NJ), November 10, 1933, mentioning "Pizza (Italian Tomato Pie)."

As for the Boston area, the first reference I found to a pizzeria was in the Boston Globe, October 22, 1934, in a legal notice where Paolo Pizzeria, at 112 Porter Street, was seeking a liquor license. I'll note that this address is just down the street from the famed Santarpio's. Pizza was being served at other places before 1934, but they didn't get mentioned in the early newspapers. 

For example, Santarpio's was initially a bakery, founded in 1903, and started selling pizza in 1933. The Boston Globe, January 31, 1922, reported that the owner, Frank Santarpio, was fined $5.00 for keeping his bakery open on Sunday. The Boston Globe, August 14, 1951, noted that Santarpio's was still a bakery at this point, located at 115 Chelsea Street, East Boston, but they made pizza as well as bread and other baked goods. Eventually, it would become solely a pizzeria. 

Regina Pizzeria, also a landmark in Boston, was established in 1926 by Luigi d’Auria, and is said to be the oldest pizzeria in Boston. For about twenty years, Regina Pizzeria received little attention, except for a shooting that occurred in 1934. The Boston Herald, December 31, 1934, reported that, “A free-for-all fight last night in the Pizzeria Regina restaurant at 15A Thacher street, said to have started when the proprietor, Luigi d’Auria of 64A Prince street, refused to serve a drink to a minor, resulted in the critical injury of one man and severe cuts and bruises to another.”

One man took a bullet in his lower back, while the other was hit on the head with a bottle. Mr. D’Auria was held for questioning, but as I didn't see additional articles about the incident, it's very possible that no charges were ever filed against D’Auria.

Another pizzeria was referenced in the Boston Globe, July 19, 1935, in a legal notice where the Pizza Garden, at 65 Northampton St., applied for a liquor license. 

The Boston Herald, November 9, 1935, printed an ad for Mario’s Italian Restaurant announcing their opening of the Catacomb Canteen, “the Only Downtown Place to Eat Pizza Baked Before You.” There were locations at 69 Church Street (rear of Statler Hotel) and 24 Shawmut Street. The November 17, issue, added that you should try "the tasty Italian delicacy ‘PIZZA’ served by ciociare." Ciociare refers to "girls dressed in gay peasant costumes."  The Boston Globe, December 18, 1935, added that their chef was Tony Iorio, and that there was a "window oven, where chef Tony Iorio prepares the famous Italian pizza.’

Back to New York. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (NY), January 21, 1935, mentioned Pizzeria alla Napoletana, located at 147 W. 48th St. Pizza was described as “a dessert that dates back to the early Romans. Pizza requires a special type of oven with the flame coming down from the top, which explains why it is so hard to get in the majority of restaurants…” Pizza as a dessert? This wouldn't be the last time that it would be categorized as such. 

The article also noted, “It is made in a great big shallow dish almost as large as a tea tray. And is served in triangles, like slabs of pie.” It continued,  “Pizza, as properly prepared, is baked cheese and tomato. Another version consists of cheese, tomatoes, olives and anchovies all baked together.” Again, those anchovies! Finally, it stated, “Pizza is much like pie. Americans often order it by asking for pie. You can combine both techniques, by asking the waiter for ‘a pizza pie.

Beer and pizza? The Boston Globe, February 20, 1936, reported on a possible scandal at the Welfare Department in Quincy. George E. Morey, the ousted assistant welfare commissioner, had alleged that Commissioner Alvin S. Wight had held “high jinx parties,” with beer and pizza, in the Welfare Department offices and that “good looking women had received favored treatment.” In response, the women of the department sent an open letter, denying all of the allegations and demanding that Morey produce proof of his charges or apologize. Morey’s allegations were taken seriously, leading the City Council to initiate a fact finding investigation.

As a follow-up, the Boston Globe, June 16, 1936, reported that the subcommittee of the City Council had issued a report of their investigation.  The report confirmed that Morey’s claims were true, and that “beer and pizza parties” had been held after office hours. It also stated that a woman, whose identity was not revealed, was the “real boss” of the Welfare Department. These were explosive conclusions but the Council voted to send the matter back to the subcommittee for reconsideration and further study. Unfortunately, I didn't find any further references, so I'm unsure of the final conclusion of this matter.

The Hartford Courant (CT), June 10, 1936, mentioned that De Pasquale Bros. Pizzeria Bakery and Luncheonette, at 58 Market Street, had recently moved to this location. They had introduced Italian Pizza to Hartford about 5 years ago and now had a “new oven designed especially for us insures most efficient baking of Pizza.” 

The first American cookbook to feature a recipe for Neapolitan pizza was the Specialita Culinarie Italiane, 137 Tested Recipes of Famous Italian Foods, a fundraising cookbook published by the North Bennett Street Industrial School in Boston in 1936. The recipe, located in the Cakes & Desserts chapter,  was titled Neapolitan Pie, Pizza alla Napolitana. It called for raised dough, which could be purchased at any Italian bakery, and was supposed to be topped with a half-cup of tomatoes, a 1/4 pound of Scamozza cheese, olive oil, grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. 

Maybe the first recipe for pizza in a U.S. newspaper was provided in the Boston Globe, January 2, 1937. The recipe stated you could buy bread dough at an Italian bakery or make your own. Then, you greased a baking sheet with olive oil and spread the dough on the sheet. Next, you placed pieces of anchovies on the dough, and then added a half-can of tomatoes, pepper, a sprinkling of savory, and top it all with olive oil. Curiously, no cheese was used in this recipe. 

Another Boston pizzeria. The Boston Globe, December 2, 1936, had a legal notice for Ralph’s Pizzeria, located at 980 Saratoga St., East Boston, seeking a liquor license. A year later, the Boston Globe, November 12, 1937, also had a legal notice, for a restaurant seeking a liquor license, Star Pizzeria at 331 Chelsea Street.

The Record (NJ), October 1, 1937, had the above advertisement for Jack’s Grill, a Bar-Pizzeria, located at 96 Vreeland Avenue, South Hackensack. Most of the previous pizzerias were bakeries or Italian restaurants, but there started to be taverns and bar also serving pizza. So, to some, pizza was seen as good bar food, a combination that continues to this day.

During this time period, New Jersey also addressed some particular legal quirks concerning the nature of pizzerias. The Record (NJ), January 10, 1939, reported that a legal question had arisen, whether female waitresses could be employed at a pizzeria on the basis it was a restaurant, or whether they were prohibited because pizzerias were taverns. Female waitresses were not permitted to work at taverns. D. Frederick Burnett, the State Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner, conducted a scholarly study of the pizzeria business, and then concluded that whether a pizzeria was a restaurant, tavern or ordinary bakeshop under State liquor law depended on the nature of the establishment. It would be judged on a case by case basis. 

Burnett wrote “In Naples, of course, everyone knows that a Pizzeria is a place where dough pies, embroidered with tomatoes, anchovies or mozzarella (a cheese indited to the kid goat), and embellished with peppers and garlic, are made and baked while you wait.” He continued, “Talking strictly Neapolitan, a pizzeria is a shop specializing in the baking of pizza to order. The fact that it is consumed before it cools, does not convert the shop into a restaurant. Rather it is a tribute to gastronomical judgment. Nor does its solubility in wine change a tavern either into a restaurant or a bake shop merely because it installs an oven to serve its patrons."

More pizza recipes. The Boston Herald, March 6, 1939, provided a recipe, which entailed you making your own dough. The pizza was topped by onion, Parmesan cheese, pepper, canned tomatoes, olive oil and anchovies. The Boston Globe, July 28, 1939, printed a recipe for Neapolitan pizza, and it simply asked for the use of bread dough. It was topped by crushed tomato pulp, salt, pepper, olive oil, anchovies, grated American cheese, chopped Italian sausage, and chopped sardines. Anchovies were a common element in many of these recipes.

On to Chicago! The Chicago Tribune (IL), October 17, 1939, stated, “The only place in Chicago where you can buy Italian pizza is at a little restaurant on Taylor street near Halstead. There you can watch Tom Granato, for sixteen years the proprietor of Chicago’s only pizzeria, concoct the delicacy and carefully deposit it in his big brick oven, slipping it off long handled shovels of well sandpapered wood onto the hot bricks. The foundation of pizza is a dough similar to that in English muffins. Tom rolls out a piece the size of a pie crust on his marble slab, cuts up fresh Italian cheese over it, covers it with tomato—the little Italian pear tomato—sprinkles olive oil over it, and deposits it in the brick oven for a few minutes. It is served in a tin pie plate, cut into four sections, and is eaten with the fingers.”

So, Tom’s Pizzeria Napolitana would have opened around 1923. And it's interesting that the newspaper article made it clear that pizza should be eaten with the fingers. This isn't the first article to mention this, and is indicative that many people were still unfamiliar with pizza, and probably would have used a fork and knife on it, rather than pick it up in their hands.  

More pizza in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune (IL), October 19, 1939, added the fact that,  “There’s another pizza place in Chicago besides Tom Granato’s. It’s Tuffano’s, located on Aberdeen, near Vernon Park place. However, pizzas are served here only on Saturday night.”

The Boston Globe, December 4, 1939, printed a legal notice that Barney’s Pizza, at 299 Havre Street, applied for a liquor license. 

All-you-can eat pizza? The Daily Record (NJ), February 8, 1940, printed an ad for Rex Pizzeria, stating that “Tomorrow Only. Children’s Day. All the Tomato Pie The Children Can Eat. 15 cents." This was the first reference to all-you-can eat pizza. 
 
The Boston Globe, December 10, 1940, printed a legal notice that Napoli Pizzeria, at 67 Prince Street, Street, applied for a liquor license.

What might have helped to promote Neapolitan pizza was a recipe that appeared in numerous newspapers, all across the country. The Sioux City Journal (Iowa), January 21, 1941, provided this recipe, and the article was also simultaneously published in many other newspapers, in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Michigan, Tennessee, Louisiana, Indiana, Texas, California, Idaho, Kentucky, Florida, Alabama, and Hawaii. As we can see, the recipe had a huge reach, and might have been the first opportunity for many to grasp the concept of pizza. 

The recipe called for you to make your own dough, The dough was then spread, to a 1/4 inch thickness, over a greased pie pan. The pizza was then topped with a cup of drained, canned tomatoes, thin slices of Mozzarella cheese, and some grated Parmesan cheese. A very simple pizza, but it at least promoted the idea of this delicious food. 

According to the Hartford Courant (CT), October 13, 1957, there were less than 100 pizza places in 1940. There would be a huge pizza boom during the next twenty years, so that in 1957, there were about 20,000 pizza places across the U.S. And during those years, pizza variations sprouted up everywhere, especially some regional variations. It was a boom time for pizza, helping to cement its place in the American palate. 

To Be Continued...

Monday, May 10, 2021

Rant: Food/Drink Bloggers, Step Up Your Game!

Food & drink bloggers, listen up and carefully consider my words. I'm challenging you to Step Up Your Game! Are you willing to accept that challenge? 


Yesterday, The Passionate Foodie blog reached a milestone, its 14th Anniversary, and during that time I've written nearly 5,000 articles. Through the years, I believe my writing has improved but there''s definitely still room for improvement. It's a never-ending objective, to continue to hone my writing, to better myself.

I've also learned so much about food and drink over these years, and I continue to learn new things all the time. To me, that's part of the joy of blogging, researching and learning about so many fascinating topics. It's also a never-ending objective as there will always be more to learn. 

There are plenty of other food & drink bloggers, some who have been around for as long as I (if not longer) and many others who are much newer. I don't view any of them as competitors but rather see them as colleagues. As such, I freely share suggestions and advice with other bloggers, helping them and hoping others will reciprocate. Even if these bloggers attend the same event as me, writing their own articles about the event, they each bring their own unique viewpoint to their story.

Now, I've also seen some lost blogging opportunities as well as food & drink articles which could be improved. I freely admit that I'm guilty of such offenses and that means I continually try to up my game, to eliminate such offenses. Today, I'm calling on every other food & drink blogger to follow my lead. 

Step Up Your Blogging Game! I don't want to hear excuses. I don't want to hear the reasons why you think you can't do so. I want to see results, to see other blogs improve and shine.

The past year, as the pandemic has raged, has been a difficult time. Restaurants closed, wine tasting events were canceled, and there have been less food & drink opportunities for bloggers. Some bloggers simply wrote very little, failing to up their game, failing to create their own opportunities. It is said you can best judge a person when you see how they react to a crisis. How did you handle the issues of the pandemic on your blog?

For myself, I took the time to write some historical articles about food and drink, original pieces often looking into the origins of these items. For example, I wrote A History of the Sahara Syrian Restaurant, which ended up being one of the most popular articles on my blog during the past year. Although the restaurant had been closed for nearly 50 years, the building remained largely unused and its iconic sign on Shawmut Avenue was familiar to many. I delved into the mystery of its existence, providing history about the restaurant and building.  

Also during this past year, I've written historical articles about topics including the Sherry Cobbler, Peking Duck, Greek Restaurants, Peruvian Chifa, Salisbury Steak, Vietnamese Restaurants, and more. Even with restaurants closed and tasting events canceled, I still found plenty to write about. I just had to be more inventive, and devote my energies in a slightly different vein. 

Are you ready to up your blogging game? I hope so. 

Of course you don't have to follow my advice. Maybe you don't have sufficient free time or maybe you don't care about upping your game. I'm trying to reach those people who do care, to wake them up and hopefully stir them to action. I would like to see the food & drink blogging community improve overall, and that requires many of us to work harder at our craft. It takes us looking more critically at our own writing, to see where we can improve.

Are you willing to do so? Will you accept my challenge?

Sunday, May 9, 2021

The 14th Anniversary of The Passionate Foodie

Open some Bubbly as it's time to celebrate!

Today, The Passionate Foodie blog celebrates its Fourteenth Anniversary, a significant milestone. During all those years, I've seen many other blogs come and go, but I've chosen to continue my writing. With nearly 5,000 posts, I'm very proud of all I've written and have accomplished, and I look forward to continuing to write, continuing to share and spread my deep passion for food & drink.

I've actually been writing about food and drink for 15 1/2 years, as I wrote for another blog, Real World Winers (since defunct), for 1 1/2 years before I started The Passionate Foodie.

Because of the pandemic, this past year has been very challenging. Restaurants had to close for a time, and some never reopened, while those that did reopen had to adjust to numerous restrictions. Large food and drink events, such as the Seafood Expo, were canceled. However, the most unfortunate aspect has been the deaths of over 500,000 people from Covid. We have all been touched by this tragedy, and hopefully we are now moving in a positive direction, with vaccinations helping to protect us.  

During the past 14 years of The Passionate Foodie, I've learned so much about food & drinks, exploring a wide variety of topics, essentially anything I can eat or drink. I never wanted to limit my writing to a specific cuisine, type of drink, or other specialty. I want the freedom to explore whatever perks my interest and I know I'll never run out of subject matter. Every time I learn something new, I realize how much more there is to learn. That is one of my favorite aspects and it helps that I'm a voracious reader and love to research new topics.

My blog has provided me a myriad of wonderful opportunities and experiences, creating a vast storehouse of fantastic memories. I've sampled so much excellent and exciting food and drink, in this country and others. I've gotten to travel to some amazing destinations, including Canada, CroatiaFrance (Bordeaux and Champagne), Spain (Sherry region), Italy (Tuscany & Collio), Portugal (Douro region), Argentina and Chile. In the United States, I've visited a number of states, including California, Oregon, Washington, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, and more.

I've met so many interesting people, which has enhanced my experiences as I've long said that food and drink when shared is even better. Some of those people have become very close friends, and I think those friendships will last for many years to come. It has been fascinating to meet numerous wine makers, distillers, brewers, wine & liquor store owners, importers, distributors, restaurant owners, chefs, and much more. From each, I've learned something new, which has helped my writing and understanding.

During these fourteen years, what began as a hobby transformed into my profession. I'm now a freelance writer, having been published in a number of magazines and newspapers. For over a year, I've been writing a column for Sampan, a bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England, and have written over 20 articles for them. I'm also a Sake educator and consultant, working for a variety of clients, from restaurants to distributors, conducting Sake classes, tastings, dinners and more. 

It has been my pleasure to try to showcase and promote under-appreciated and/or lesser known wines, spirits and other drinks, such as SakeSherryFranciacortaCroatian WinesGreek Wines, Georgian WinesUruguayan WinesPortuguese WinesMezcal, Baijiu and more. I've championed many of these underdogs, all which are worthy beverages deserving of much more attention by consumers as well as other writers. We all need to expand our palates and seek out the liquid wonders that can be found all around the world.

Within the last few years, I've dedicated much time to researching and writing numerous historical articles about food and drink, and I'm especially proud of these articles, many breaking new ground in our understanding of certain topics. Some of these articles during the past year include:
I owe many thanks to all of my readers, as it is their support and encouragement which has helped motivate me to continue writing year after year. I also owe thanks to my family and friends who have been so supportive for all these years. In addition, I am grateful to everyone in the food and drink community, from chefs to wine makers, who have helped contribute, in a myriad of ways, to my blog.  Life is about connections, about the relationships we make, and they all contribute to what we do.

If I didn't thoroughly enjoy what I've been doing, then it would have ended years ago. I find it fulfilling and satisfying, and hope that my passion for food, drink and writing never dims. I look forward to celebrating my 15th anniversary next year, and I hope my readers keep reading me year after year.

If you've enjoyed my articles during the past year, or more, please consider Donating to me, so that I can continue to provide interesting content. My largest expense is the cost of the resource sites that I use, especially newspaper archives, allowing me access to fascinating information which provides the background for my historical articles. Donations also allow me to continue operating this blog without any advertising. I appreciate any and all of your contributions.   

It's time to celebrate!

Friday, May 7, 2021

New Sampan Article: Moy Auk: Band Leader & Famed Chef

"The most interesting feature of Chinese life to me was that on board their boats, or sampans, as they are called....Upon these boats live whole families of three and even four generations."

--The Fall River Daily Herald, November 20, 1888

As I've mentioned previously, I've a new writing gig, contributing to Sampan, the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England. I've previously written twenty-one articles for Sampan, including:


My newest article, Moy Auk: Band Leader & Famed Chef, is now available in the new issue of Sampan. During the late 1880s, one of the first, and most famous, restaurants in Boston’s Chinatown was owned by Moy Auk, who also led a famous Chinese musical band. His restaurant was referred to as the "Delmonico's” of Chinatown. At this time, Delmonico's, in Manhattan, was considered one of the finest restaurants in the country so this was very high praise. Unfortunately, that restaurant, despite its renown, didn't last long as Moy's true passion was music. Read all about Moy Auk in my latest article. 

I'm currently working on a new article for the Sampan.

What is a "sampan?" The newspaper's site states, "A sampan is a popular river boat in traditional China. This small but useful vessel, by transporting cargo from large boats to the village ports, creates a channel of communication among villages." And like that type of boat, Sampan delivers news and information all across New England, and "acts a bridge between Asian American community organizations and individuals in the Greater Boston area."

Sampan, which was founded in 1972, is published by the nonprofit Asian American Civic Association, "The newspaper covers topics that are usually overlooked by the mainstream press, such as key immigration legislation, civil rights, housing, education, day-care services and union activities. These issues are crucial to the well-being of Asian immigrants, refugees, low-income families as well as individuals who are not proficient in the English language."

There is plenty of interest in Sampan which will appeal to all types of readers, from restaurant reviews to historical articles, from vital news stories to travel items. In these current days when racism and prejudice against Asians and their restaurants is high, it's more important than ever that accurate information about the Asian community is disseminated and promoted. We need to combat the irrational prejudices that some possess, and support our Asian communities just as we would support any other element of our overall community. We are all important aspects of a whole, and we need to stand together.

Support Sampan

Monday, May 3, 2021

It's Starting To Return...


It's starting to return to an element of normalcy....the local restaurant scene. 

Nearly all of the restaurants which had temporarily closed for the winter have reopened. There are many more food options available now. Some are only doing take out/delivery while others have inside and/or patio dining. 

Over the past week, I've dined out at a few spots and they have all been relatively busy, a very good sign that things are beginning to resume some aspect of normality. While enjoying a spicy, crispy pork belly Bahn Mi at Viet Citron, I watched the staff prepare order after order, many for take-out. I also enjoyed a delicious Peruvian dinner at Tambo 22. and the restaurant was as full as pandemic regulations would allow. It felt almost normal to be dining there. 

I see friends who are also starting to dine out once again, showing pictures of the patios and restaurants at which they have recently dined. With the warmer weather, patios should be even more popular. As more people get vaccinated, hopefully restaurant will see even more customers. They need our support, and we should do our part, which includes tipping well. 

I've got no desire to Rant today. The past week has given me a little hope that life will return to a semblance of normality in the near future. For me, dining out helps make life seem more normal, so I'm glad to see many others feel that same way. 

Please get vaccinated, be safe, and support the local restaurant industry. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I'm back again with a new edition of Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food and drink events. I hope everyone dines out safely and tips well.
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1) Fusion cuisine, if done well, can be delicious and fascinating. I've recently discussed Chifa cuisine, a fusion of Peruvian and Chinese cuisine which works very well. During the last several years, one of my other favorite fusion cuisines was the melding of Greek and Mexican (Grexico) cuisine offered by Committee, which unfortunately is only offered once a year, for Cinco de Mayo

It really should be offered year round, or even open a restaurant dedicated to this fusion cuisine. Chef de Cuisine Luis Figueroa has created dishes which are absolutely delicious and compelling. I highly recommend that you visit Committee on Wednesday, May 5, from 5pm-11pm.

The Menu is as follows:
Antojitos
--Grecamole (mashed avocados and herbs, feta, pita chips) $14
--Kalamboki (Mexican street corn, spicy jalapeno mayo, grated mizithra) $12
--Spanakopita Empanada (salsa verde, Mexican cream, manouri cheese) $4 each
--Grilled Corn Horiatiki Salad (grilled corn, tomato, onion, cilantro, pepper, cucumber, queso fresco, crispy tortilla strips) $14
--Lavraki Ceviche (Branzino, lime, red onion, oregano, cilantro, serrano, tomato, evoo, served with corn chips) $18
--Bambazo (chorizo, potato, lettuce, Grexico cream, feta, brioche) $14
--Corn Tamale (corn husk steamed, horta cream sauce, graviera) $13
--Grilled Panela Cheese (grilled halloumi, pepper confit, corn tortilla) $14
--Lamb Ribs (Adobo and Greek herb cooked paidakia, horta chimichurri) $16
--Mushroom Tostada (crispy corn tortilla, mushrooms, gigante puree) $18
Tacos (3 per order)
--Pescado (grilled swordfish, baja skordalia, Greek olive salsa, Greek slaw, chipotle aioli, corn tortilla) $18
--Pork Belly (avocado tzatziki, red radish salsa, corn tortilla) $16
--Lamb Barbacoa (braised lamb, tzatziki, FIX beer guajillo, onion, cilantro, grape leaf-corn tortilla) $22
Para La Mesa 
--Pork Carnitas (pork confit, toursi, spicy gigantes, Florina pepper sauce, horiatiki salsa, salsa verde) $28
--Whole Red Snapper (Adobo marinated, achiote, onions, rigani, Mexico City salad, corn tortillas, Greek olive salsa, house made hot sauce) $32
--Brocheta (beef souvlaki, pepper, onions, tomato, guacamole, charros beans, asada spicy salsa, tortillas) $28
Dessert
--Churros (with merenda) $10
--Mastiha Flan $10
Drinko de Mayo Cocktails
--Is This A Margarita? Don Julio reposado, tamarind, ancho chili, lime zest agave, Royal Combier, citrus) $16
--Orange You Glad I Didn't Say Chamango? Frozen Don Julio blanco, chamoy, mango slushie, tajin ($15)
--I Got My Yucatan in Jamaica (Ketel One, Agua de Jamaica, lime bitters, citrus) $15
--Papa's Michelada (House made michelada mix, Tecate) $9
--Tecate (Hot sauce and lime) $7

Reservations are strongly encouraged. Please call 617-737-5051

Monday, April 26, 2021

Rant: Experience More, Learn More

"You can and should be interested in everything, the Stoics taught, because you can and should learn wisdom from everything. The more you experience, the more you learn, and, paradoxically, the more humbled you are by the endless amounts of knowledge that remain in front of you."
--Lives of the Stoics by Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman

When was the last time you learned something new?

About fourteen years ago, when I started The Passionate Foodie blog, I chose not to limit it to a specific aspect of food and drink. I wanted to be a generalist rather than a specialist. I wanted the ability to write about any food and drink topic I desired, allowing me to explore any element which interested me, allowing me the opportunity to learn about a diverse selection of topics. And over these years, I've learned so much, but also have realized how much more exists to know. 

When I find a wine that was produced from a grape new to me, or from a wine region unfamiliar to me, I commonly buy it. When a restaurant opens serving a more unique cuisine, I dine there.  I also commonly spend time researching and learning more about these new wines or cuisines. I see it as an opportunity to expand my horizons. If I enjoy what I find, I may even become an ardent advocate of this new item, encouraging others to experience it too.

I've heard people dismiss an entire category of wine, such as Chardonnay, stating they hate all Chardonnay. How can you do that when the flavor profiles of Chardonnay can vary so much? Maybe you just aren't a fan of oaky Chardonnay, but an unoaked Chardonnay might please you. Or vice versa. If you experience and taste a wider variety of Chardonnay, then maybe you'll realize you don't hate the entire category. The same would apply to someone who states they dislike an entire cuisine, such as Mexican. I'm sure there's dishes in that cuisine that you would enjoy, if you opened your mind. 

Obviously, the quote at the top of this page isn't limited to food and drink. It's intended as a more general philosophical statement, one that is applicable to all aspects of our lives. A number of the problems and disagreements in our society are largely due to ignorance, from people who lack experience and wisdom, who live in their tiny bubbles, isolated from the greater community. They should open their arms to new experiences, to learning from others, and maybe their ignorance, and hate, will lessen or hopefully even vanish.

Life should be a never-ending search for knowledge. It doesn't matter how old you are, there is still so much you can, and should, learn. Open your heart and mind to the world, being willing to have new experiences. Do not fear, avoid or hate what is different from you. Instead, make it a learning opportunity, and gain more wisdom. If you're not learning something new every week, maybe you're doing something wrong. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Pairing Feta & Sake: Greece Meets Japan

Greek Feta Cheese paired with Japanese Sake?

It's certainly not a common pairing, and generally isn't suggested in the articles which discuss drink pairings with Feta. Sake and cheese is also not a traditional pairing in Japanese cuisine. However, experimenting with food and drink pairings is fun, and can sometimes lead to some intriguing pairings that you might not otherwise consider.

In my prior article, The Science of Sake & Food Pairings, I discussed some of the scientific reasons why Sake is such a versatile drink that pairs well with all types of foods. It has more than twenty amino acids, more than any other alcohol, and those amino acids help in various ways with food pairings. Sake also possesses an umami element, much more than wine, and that umami element also assists with food pairings. 

I also wrote another, more specific, article, Pairing Cheese & Sake. In that article, I stated, "Both Sake and cheese contain lactic acid, which means they can possess complementary flavors and aromas. As I mentioned before, Sake is usually rich in umami and that works well with other umami foods, including cheeses." I also suggested a number of Sake and cheese pairings. So, the question isn't really whether Sake pairs with Feta Cheese or not, but rather which Sake best pairs with it. 

Feta, a term that means "slice," likely originated during the 17th century, though its ancestry may extend back many more centuries. I purchased three different Fetas from the Greek International Food Market, as they have an excellent selection of Feta, including some barrel aged varieties. The three Fetas included the Dodoni (a sheep's milk, from the southern region of Greece), Arahova Barrel (a sheep's milk, barrel aged), and the Olympus (also sheep's milk). 

All three were delicious, and though they might all look similar, they each have their own unique flavor profile, although they also share some similarities, including a briny aspect. The Olympus was the creamiest of the three, and the Arahova had the most complex melange of flavors. Feta is a versatile cheese, which can be easily added to a myriad of recipes, or simply enjoyed atop a salad. 

The Koshi No Kanbai Sai "Blue River" Junmai Ginjo is a typical Niigata Sake, with a crisp, clean and dry profile, as well as an Acidity of 1.4. It was silky smooth, with more subtle aromatics and flavors, and was a sheer pleasure to drink. Definitely the type of Sake I enjoy. With the Feta Cheeses, it was a good pairing, able to handle the strong flavor of the Feta, as well as its briny character. However, it wasn't a compelling pairing, one which would especially excite your palate. It was just a solid pairing, one which would bring pleasure to many people.


On the other hand, the Fukucho "Seaside" Junmai Sparkling Sake, which I've previously reviewed, was a far more compelling pairing, a match that elevated the experience. First, this Sake has lots of acidity, which is an excellent match for the creamy feta. Second, the Sparkling nature of the Sake also helped to cleanse your plate between tastes of the Feta. Third, the fruitiness of the Sake complemented the more herbal and earthy tastes of the Feta. Fourth, the briny aspect of the Feta was accented by the briny element of the Sake. This Sake would work very well with any Feta heavy dish. And this Sake also earns my hearty recommendation.

I only paired two Sakes with the Feta so there are plenty of additional Sake styles which you can experiment with as a pairing. The Fukucho was certainly an excellent pairing, indicating Sake can pair very well with Feta. Now, it's just a matter of finding all of the Sake types which work well with Feta. 

Feta & Sake: A fine marriage of Greece and Japan.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Rant: We Need More Breakfast Reviews

Do restaurants that primarily specialize in Breakfast get short shrift from restaurant reviewers? 

If you look back at the recent archives of some of your favorite restaurant reviewers, you'll probably find that they rarely, if ever, review restaurants that specialize in breakfast. And if they do, the articles are usually compilation pieces, discussing a group of such restaurants, maybe by locale. You might see a list of the top breakfast spots on Cape Cod or the best donut shops on the North Shore. Why is this the case? Why don't breakfast restaurants receive more attention? 


Probably my favorite local breakfast spot is Nick & Andy's, located in Danvers. They have delicious and well-prepared food, from Blueberry Muffins to Vlore Cinnamon French Toast, Chicken & Waffles to Hash Browns. The service is excellent too, with many of the servers having worked there for years. I've recommended this place to many people, who have later raved about the restaurant as well.  

However, I have seen few food writers covering this restaurant. Why is that so? In general, many food writers and restaurant reviews rarely cover breakfast restaurants, even though many people love to eat a good breakfast. Nick & Andy's usually seems busy, so there's plenty of people who enjoy their food, but they deserve greater coverage. As do other excellent breakfast restaurants.


Let me speculate on some of the reasons why breakfast is covered as much as it deserves.

First, the number of breakfast spots is certainly much fewer than other types of restaurants so it is only natural that more attention is given to other restaurants. When you look at the lists of upcoming restaurants, there are very few breakfast spots in those lists. This is also a reason though why these breakfast spots deserve coverage, because they are more of a niche and can get lost amidst all of the other restaurant types.

Second, people generally look more for advice concerning dinner restaurants than breakfast spots, especially considering how much money they might spend on a dinner as opposed to an inexpensive breakfast. It is much easier to take a risk on an unknown breakfast spot that might only cost you $20 as opposed to a dinner place where you could drop $100 or more.

Third, many breakfast spots offer the usual standard fare, with little to make them stand out from other such places. So, they don't seem as compelling to review as they don't offer something new, different or more unique. Again, this is a reason why the best breakfast restaurants need more coverage, to help them stand out from the rest.

Breakfast can be such a delicious meal, pure comfort, and sometimes with a little sweetness added. And I know that I, and others, enjoy breakfast foods all day long. I can enjoy waffles for dinner, or simple bacon & eggs. An excellent breakfast spot, serving breakfast all day, is special and compelling, and worthy of being reviewed and recommended. If I'm unaware of excellent breakfast spots, I want to know about them and many other people feel the same way.

So, we need more breakfast reviews!

Friday, April 16, 2021

New Sampan Article: Peruvian Taste & Chifa: Peruvian/Chinese Fusion

"The most interesting feature of Chinese life to me was that on board their boats, or sampans, as they are called....Upon these boats live whole families of three and even four generations."
--The Fall River Daily Herald, November 20, 1888

As I've mentioned previously, I've a new writing gig, contributing to Sampan, the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England. I've previously written twenty articles for Sampan, including:


My newest article, Peruvian Taste & Chifa: Peruvian/Chinese Fusion, is now available in the new issue of Sampan. Chifa cuisine originated in Peru, an intriguing fusion of Chinese and Peruvian ingredients and techniques. It is relatively rare in the U.S., although locally, there are a number of Peruvian restaurants that offer a Chifa dish or two. However, the new Peruvian Taste Restaurant, located in Charlestown, offers more than a dozen delicious and interesting Chifa dishes. Check out my review and see some of their compelling dishes.

I'm currently working on a new article for the Sampan.

What is a "sampan?" The newspaper's site states, "A sampan is a popular river boat in traditional China. This small but useful vessel, by transporting cargo from large boats to the village ports, creates a channel of communication among villages." And like that type of boat, Sampan delivers news and information all across New England, and "acts a bridge between Asian American community organizations and individuals in the Greater Boston area."

Sampan, which was founded in 1972, is published by the nonprofit Asian American Civic Association, "The newspaper covers topics that are usually overlooked by the mainstream press, such as key immigration legislation, civil rights, housing, education, day-care services and union activities. These issues are crucial to the well-being of Asian immigrants, refugees, low-income families as well as individuals who are not proficient in the English language."

There is plenty of interest in Sampan which will appeal to all types of readers, from restaurant reviews to historical articles, from vital news stories to travel items. In these current days when racism and prejudice against Asians and their restaurants is high, it's more important than ever that accurate information about the Asian community is disseminated and promoted. We need to combat the irrational prejudices that some possess, and support our Asian communities just as we would support any other element of our overall community. We are all important aspects of a whole, and we need to stand together.

Support Sampan

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

2019 Uivo Renegado: A Tasty, Portuguese Field Blend of Old Vines

As I've often said, some of the best wine values in the world can be found in Portugal. I'm here today to  discuss another one of those excellent values, a $15 wine which impressed me for several reasons, and which I think will please my readers as well.

Folias de Baco is a wine-making project founded in 2007 by Tiago Sampaio, whose family were grape growers in the famed Douro region of Portugal. Tiago's initial studies in agriculture were in Portugal but he traveled to Oregon to receive his PhD in Viticulture and Enology. It was in Oregon that Tiago acquired some of his most important wine-making philosophies, including a passion for creating more natural wines. Tiago works with family estate vineyards, with many old vines, located in the Alto Douro in the sub-region of Cima-Corgo, Even though the vineyards are managed by organic agriculture, they are not certified as such.

Tiago produces at least a dozen different wines, some under the Uivo brand. The term "Uivo" translates as "howl", and has a number of different connotations. On the wine label, it states, "Uivo, a howl back to nature!"

The 2019 Uivo Renegado ($15) is a unique wine, a field blend of more than 25 indigenous grapes, both red and white, in a rough 50/50 mix. The vines are 70+ years old, and grow on 2 hectares of schist and granite at an altitude of about 650 meters. The grapes are trod by foot in large granite lagares, and undergo spontaneous fermentation with wild yeasts. About 5% of the wine is aged for six months in 2-3 year old chestnut barrels and the rest is aged in cement. It's also not fined or filtered, and has only an 11.5% ABV. This is definitely a more natural wine.

How can such a wine only be $15?

The wine has a dark pink color, resembling a Rosé, and on the nose, there are red berries and subtle herbal notes. On the palate, it's crisp and fresh, with tasty cherry and strawberry flavors, and a savory element, a subtle melange of herbs and spice. There is also a hint of spritz, which enhances the refreshing nature of the wine. It possesses plenty of complexity, especially at this price point, and has a pleasing finish too. This wine went well with a filet, and would be great for grilled meats this summer. Or just sipping it on its own on a warm summer day. With such a low ABV, you can easily have a couple of glasses. 

I'd recommend you buy this by the case! 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Rant: We Don't Know How To Talk About Seafood

Unfortunately, though understandably, the Seafood Expo North America (SENA) was canceled again this year due to the pandemic. This has always been one of my favorite food events each year, and I've written extensively about seafood issues I've learned at this event. With SENA's recent decision to cancel their 2021 event, I've been thinking about their previous events, and one panel discussion I attended in 2017 has remained deep in my heart. 

At this panel discussion, one speaker stood out, Barton Seaver, a resident of Maine, a seafood sustainability expert and educator, and the Director of the Sustainable Seafood & Health Initiative at the Center for Health & the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is also the author of several excellent seafood cookbooks. I've met Barton and seen him speak several times about seafood issues, and he's a compelling speaker who makes you think, who stirs your intellect and heart. 

Barton Seaver began his talk stating: "We don't know how to talk about seafood." Provocative and thought provoking. 

He continued, noting that we don't have a great definition of "sustainable seafood," especially as there are so many different elements of sustainability. Seafood often isn't included in discussion about "good food" despite it being maybe the only food with the term "food" actually in it. We need to look at seafood more from a cultural viewpoint.

Seafood suffers from "otherness," being seen as different from other foods. Over time, seafood lost its identity, partially from the advent of refrigeration and a decrease in home cooking. When people commonly think of proteins, they usually don't include seafood in their thoughts. It's also the only food that is considered guilty before being innocent. It's something people think must be analyzed, to determine whether it passes a person's standards or not. These same individuals don't conduct that same analysis with their beef, chicken, or pork.

The culinary aspect of seafood scares people, who feel intimidated when trying to cook seafood. Currently, Americans eat almost only 10 species of fish, 8 if you group the different types of catfish together. Other fish and seafood is not seen as having the same value as these 10 types. Our fishermen catch so many other species and this is an unsustainable economic situation. We demand the market supply for fish rather than take what is caught. We must all start eating other species of fish and seafood, going beyond the common 10. We need to put less pressure on those common 10 and also help fishermen who catch all the other species. 

Barton then raised an issue I hadn't considered before, but which makes much sense. He stated that one of the biggest obstacles to seafood sustainability is the recipe. The recipe? The problem is that recipes usually are written to use a specific type of fish. For example, you will commonly find recipes for Cod and Mussels, Salmon and Crab. Some seafood cookbooks break down into chapters for these specific seafood types. However, Barton feels that recipes shouldn't specify the fish type but be more generic, such as a "light, flaky whitefish."

The idea is to encourage home cooks to seek outside the common 10 and use other seafood species, which are similar to the common ones they already enjoy. That is excellent advice, though such a cookbook would probably need to have a list somewhere, grouping seafood species by the generic definitions within the cookbook. For example, the average consumer doesn't know what dogfish is like, so they would need to have some guidance as to what type of recipes it would fit within. Barton also had advice for Chefs, that they should not ask for specific species but should ask for what is fresh. In addition, they should "sell the dish, not the seafood."

Barton then moved on, stating that we need to "end the conversation of wild vs farmed." He feels it is an artificial distinction, that we should treat them both the same and stop arguing about aquaculture. In a recent online article, Barton expanded upon this issue and it is worth a read. He makes numerous valid points and I have long been a proponent of aquaculture as well. You'll find numerous articles on my blog discussing aquaculture.

As Barton says, "Seafood is such an amazing opportunity" and "Seafood sustains us." He also noted how valuable it is for our health, how numerous studies show that eating sufficient seafood can reduce your risk of heart disease by about 36%. A doctor from Tufts once told him of the 3 Ss of good health: Wear Seatbelts, No Smoking, and Eat Seafood.

"Fish lacks story." Barton is not the first sustainable seafood proponent that I have heard make this point, and its validity is without dispute. Barton feels we need to use other methods to connect people to seafood, and shouldn't start with the seafood. We need to connect it more to cultural issues. For example, we can talk about social issues such as the fact that 52% of the people involved in aquaculture are women. Aquaculture provides plenty of jobs and that is a great story. In addition, we should consider the story of how we keep fishermen in business, the civic values of helping members of our community. We all should "Talk about sustainability in any measure that is meaningful to you."

Barton Seaver provided much to ponder and I hope it sparks something within my readers as well. People need to eat more seafood, for an abundance of reasons, from improving your own health to helping local fishermen make a living. Stop treating seafood as an enemy and treat it as you would hamburger or fried chicken.