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Fish Face

19 Sep

There’s good news and bad news for seafood this week. Let’s start with the good.

Your favorite place for overpriced organics, Whole Foods, has teamed up with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program in an effort to green their fish-literally. Whole Foods will now label each seafood item according to Seafood Watch’s color coding. Best choices are green, alternatives are yellow and, well, bad choices are red. Whole Foods plans to eliminate all red-list seafood by Earth Day 2013. I don’t see why it needs to take that long, considering…would you really buy seafood that essentially comes with a label advising you not to? Imagine the dirty looks you would get from other shoppers. But, it’s pointing the boat in the right direction.

Now, get ready to put on the trout pout.

Eat ge salmon and your face might get stuck like this

Eat ge salmon and your face might get stuck like this

Let’s talk about a big step in the wrong direction, unlabeled genetically engineered salmon. That’s right, I said “unlabeled.” This science-experiment fish has completely inadequate safety assessments. The government would essentially rely on the producers of the fish to assess how safe it is to consume. We saw how well that system worked with the BP disaster. This week, the FDA will make a final decision on the frankenfish issue. Frighteningly, ge salmon could be the first genetically engineered animal to enter the food supply — and could therefore set a very scary precedent. And even icky-er; the FDA is regulating ge salmon as a drug, not a food. Well, that’s more than enough to give me the heebie jeebies and certainly more than enough for me to not want to eat it. If you aren’t a big proponent of Monsanto’s ge dance number on our food supply, I highly suggest you strongly oppose this one and I urge you to go straight to the top — call the prez.

That’s right, call the presidential comment line at (202) 456-1111 between 9am- 5pm Eastern and tell whoever answers the phone that you want the president to oppose ge salmon. It’s that simple.

If you’re the shy type about making phone calls, don’t be. Calling the people who represent you politically is fast and easy; there’s no need to be intimidated. But if you need some more incentive:

Check out Food and Water Watch‘s video about the frankenfish:


Street Smarts

30 Jul

It’s summertime and travel plans are on. But working in the non-profit world and writing for free doesn’t afford me much of a budget for jet-setting to overseas dining destinations. And while the recently bygone L.A. Street Food Fest Summer Tasting Event sounded like a foodie’s playground, it was pricier than Beerfest. Well, I found the next best thing. And it doesn’t involve elbowing hipsters out of the way for the last scoop of Coolhaus’s bacon ice cream.

A dinner at Susan Feniger’s STREET on Highland is an experience. If you’ve ever looked at a menu and coveted  everything on it, we’re on the same level here. STREET is all about that feeling you get when you find a new ethnic food truck parked on your block. So how would you feel if all of the parking on your block was occupied by different ethnic food trucks (and a prime spot for your car, of course). Ecstatic? Right. So basically what I’m saying here is bring friends, so that you can fully maximize your menu choices. (Read: eat their food too.)

Behold, gnocci unlike any you've ever tasted!

And since you know me, you know I’m compelled to mention the fact that STREET only serves sustainable seafood and doesn’t serve tuna or salmon at all. They work with organic farms and I even saw some organic beers and wines on the menu (but I went for the honeydew juice, cucumber and vodka and wasn’t sorry). The counters are made from recycled materials and they recycle and compost almost all of their waste. In fact, they even recycle their used cooking oil and use it as a component for the bathroom soap. And that, well, that’s just beyond cool.

I don’t care what Top Chef Masters has to say, the Kaya Toast is not to be missed, my friends.

Sounds Fishy to Me

3 Jun

At a holiday cookout this past weekend, my friend asked me if I’d like some ceviche. I looked at the pile of fresh shrimp and responded “I’m actually trying to cut down on my seafood consumption.”

Lame, I know, but the seafood that I’m most fond of aren’t exactly the most sustainable options. Shrimp can be problematic. US farmed shrimp is preferable to foreign, but one still has to be careful. According to Seafood Watch, the US actually only produces less than 1% of the shrimp eaten by Americans (maybe less soon considering the Gulf oil disaster?). Shrimp farms can possess the same problems as fish farms. Wild fish is needed to feed the shrimp. The vast majority of shrimp farms release polluted effluent into the environment. But wild caught shrimp comes with its own problem, bycatch. Bycatch refers to the animals caught in fishing equipment along with the intended catch. Bycatch is thrown back overboard, dead or dying. With shrimp, bycatch includes seahorses and sea turtles. Ouch. I’ll pass on the ceviche.

But more than shrimp, I like albacore tuna.

Mom's tuna casserole, can I really live without it?

I have yet to see canned tuna that is MSC certified. I have no idea if my tuna is longline-caught. Longline-caught tuna is more mature and contains more mercury than tuna caught by trolling or tuna that is pole caught. Bycatch is also a problem with tuna, and can include sea turtles, seabirds and sharks. That seems like a lot of carnage for my tuna salad, I have to admit.

Worse (much worse) than albacore though, is bluefin. Management of bluefin fishing has proved completely ineffective worldwide. Bycatch is again a problem and is unregulated. The bluefin tuna industry is actually contributing to the decline of endangered animals caught along with the tuna — which is itself an endangered species. The word “overfished” doesn’t begin to describe bluefin; Seafood Watch reports that the Atlantic population of bluefin has declined by nearly 90% since the 1970s. At present, Mitsubishi is being accused of hoarding thousands of tons of bluefin and freezing it. When the stock crashes, as it is expected to, imagine the profits to Mitsubishi. Until very recently, you could buy bluefin tuna-flavored Whiskas cat food. Yes, really. Where is the disconnect? Endangered animals in your pet food? I’d like to echo a question posed by Greenpeace: You wouldn’t eat a tiger, so why would you eat an endangered bluefin tuna?

So I’ve been considering a new challenge. First there was vegan month, then cake week(s) (boy, those were tough) and now, perhaps, there should be a month without seafood.

While my month of veganism gave me a huge appreciation of how difficult it can be to not eat animal products when you like the way they taste (yes, I have heard tell of some people who don’t like the way meat tastes), it didn’t ultimately change my diet. I try to limit my animal foods to ones that were produced humanely and sustainably, but I did that prior to giving veganism a try. And sometimes I really want that burger, regardless of whether or not it was made with free-range beef. A diet free of animal products just couldn’t stick with me. But a diet without seafood? Maybe.

The restrictions of a vegan diet are pretty clear. Sustainable food terminology can be confusing, but even a working flexitarian like myself can navigate the labels at Whole Foods or talk with the farmers at the market. I know to look for pastured, organic, local meat. Sustainable seafood is hardly cut and dry. You may know not to eat bluefin, but do you also know not to eat toro, giant tuna, kuromaguro and horse mackerel? Because they all mean one thing — bluefin tuna.

Roll Out

7 May

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).

This is how I roll...

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.

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