I have a confession to make. I’m not a sushi fan.
Yea, I said it. I realize this is one likely reason I am single in Los Angeles (really, you don’t wanna see me with chopsticks).
I unfortunately can’t blame my Central Floridian suburban upbringing for this deficiency (though I can for most other things). My high school friends frequently dragged me out to sushi places-even ones we had to drive an hour to get to, only to sigh as they watched me order the veggie roll. Something about raw fish just doesn’t appeal to me. So I tend to limit my sushi roll consumption to the need-a-fast-dinner-from-Von’s moments of my life.
Now, however lacking in sushi knowledge that I am, I’m well aware that sushi from a grocery store obviously isn’t any good. But I know a lot of you eat it for lunch, whether you are willing to admit it or not. I’m interested to know how many of you have read the ingredients. High fructose corn syrup is listed not once but three times on my Von’s California roll. Call me crazy, but I don’t think high fructose corn syrup belongs in there once, let alone several times.
Let me paint a picture for you. Have any of you read “Garlic and Sapphires” by Ruth Reichl? Imagine me as the reluctant friend getting dragged out to the real sushi joint. I haven’t got a clue. So I go with the only acceptable way to turn down a sushi date in L.A.
“Oh no, most sushi is really not sustainable.”
Then I sound educated, edgy and committed to a cause, instead of inept at navigating the menu.
Public knowledge about sustainable seafood has come a long way. No waiter will ever look at you cock-eyed anymore for asking whether the salmon is farmed or not. If you are the type of person who squirms when you see bluefin tuna on the menu but not the type to make a scene, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program makes cards that you can leave on the table with your tip stating:
“Dear Management, I noticed that some of the seafood you sell comes from sources that are harmful to our oceans. As a customer, it is important to me that you offer environmentally responsible seafood. This decision is good for our oceans and for business as it meets the growing demand for ocean friendly seafood.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself (especially after that sake). And for the restaurants that are putting forth a concerted effort to serve more sustainably sourced seafood, Seafood Watch also provides a “thank you” card. Although, frankly, it should be pretty easy to nicely tell your waiter to thank the chef and owners. You could even throw in a “I’ll tell all of my friends.”
Seafood Watch is a wonderful resource. You can get their sustainable seafood recommendations in a wallet card (they are divided regionally) or on your iPhone. And, yes, there is a specific sustainable sushi choices card.
If you like to sit through those Food Inc.-esque exposes about the food system, then Netflix “The End of the Line” to learn everything you’ve always wanted to stick your head in the sand about.
There are several reasons I wanted to address sustainable seafood (via my lack of sushi sophistication). Which do you want first-the good news or the bad? The good? OK. As you know, Trader Joe’s and I don’t always see eye to eye on sustainability. TJ’s, like most grocery stores, has a ways to go when it comes to being environmentally savvy. Greenpeace agreed, and launched a campaign against Trader Joe’s with this year’s release of their “Carting Away the Oceans.” Trader Joe’s has thus started the process of creating a sustainable seafood policy. Not to pick on TJ’s-most grocery stores don’t have one. You can find out if yours does here, or simply ask at your seafood counter. Let your supermarket know that you demand such a policy as a customer. When you buy seafood, you can look for the Marine Stewardship Council logo on packaging to help inform your choices.
And of course, the other bad news is the thought of New Orleans having to go without seafood and hundreds and hundreds of US fishermen and women having to go without a paycheck, courtesy of BP and Transocean.
If you’re feeling the need to reconnect with the abundance of natural beauty found in our own local bay (read ‘more good news!’), pay a visit to the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, just beneath the carousel on the Santa Monica Pier. All of the species in the aquarium call the Santa Monica Bay home and entry can be as low as two bucks. Youngsters even get in free and any staff member or volunteer would be happy to field your questions. So go meet the locals.