Daily Archives: 17 January 2010

Food for Thought

I just finished an eye-opening book that turned everything I thought I knew about eating seafood upside down. The book is called Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood by Taras Grescoe. It caught my eye at the library, perhaps because I saw it shortly after I heard a related interview on NPR’s Fresh Air with Daniel Pauly from the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Centre. That led me to look up his article in The New Republic, “Aquacalypse Now”, which started me off thinking about fish.

This book joins the list of books I’ve read over the past several years that make me both thoughtful and anxious about all the things I eat. Now, I’ve added fish to the list. If you spend time thinking about what you eat as I do, I highly recommend this book.

In some ways, I found the information discouraging. After all that I’ve read about meat animals raised on an industrial scale, I assumed fish and other seafood were a better ethical choice. I already knew there were issues with farmed Atlantic salmon and do try to avoid that. However, I had no idea about the issues behind farm-raised shrimp from Asia, maguro tuna (bluefin), and other seafood.

On the positive side, the author hasn’t given up eating fish and seafood himself. He offers information on the more responsible choices and where to find further information.

Since finishing the book, Howard and I went out for sushi once, armed with the Sustainable Sushi and Northeast Region pocket guides from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. We managed to craft a meal from the “good choices” columns. I don’t know if we chose 100% sustainably, but we did avoid everything on the really bad list – tuna, salmon, and yellowtail (former favorites). It was definitely challenging.

This weekend, we went to our house in Maine. This is the season for Maine shrimp, a sustainable option, so we got some to cook for dinner. In past years, the season was a mere six weeks, from December 1 through mid-January, but both last year and again this year, the season has been extended until May 1 due to an abundance of shrimp.

I made a variation on a favorite recipe for BBQ shrimp from a New Orleans cooking class Howard took before we were married. Despite the name, the shrimp is actually prepared on the stovetop, not the grill. The original recipe calls for large shrimp in the shell. After cooking the shrimp in the buttery sauce, you peel and eat, licking your fingers as you go, and finally sopping up the extra sauce with French bread.

Maine shrimp are small and sweet and very pink. These came without the shell, which makes cooking them very easy, but not quite right for finger food. So, I prepared the shrimp in the same sauce and served it over steamed rice. It was less fun to eat, but just as tasty.

New Orleans BBQ Shrimp
Serves 2-4, depending on appetites

½ stick (4 Tbsp) butter
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp white pepper
½ tsp paprika
1 lb shrimp
Juice from 2 lemons
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 dash Tabasco
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt to taste
½ bunch scallions, sliced thin

Melt the butter in a skillet. Stir in the black, red, and white peppers and the paprika. Add shrimp, and cook, stirring, until most of the shrimp is opaque. Add lemon juice, Worcestershire, and Tabasco. Stir again. Add garlic. Season with salt to taste. Stir in scallions, and serve over steamed rice.

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