I heard two things on the radio this morning that stuck to the lint trap in my head.
First, a team of scientists has established credible data that weekly consumption of fish significantly reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease later in your life, so they counsel us to fire up the broiler and get busy with the filets.
Second, stocks of jack mackerel in the South Pacific have been depleted by approximately 60 percent in the last six years, ironically the same exact six years since the three nations that fish the area most heavily (Chile, Australia and New Zealand) established a coalition to protect the fishery. Depletion is due to, well, greed mainly, and due to the huge proportion of juvenile fish in the catch, caught before they can breed and repopulate the stock. In 2008, independent review showed that more than 60% of the mackerel caught were below the agreed-upon minimum size limit, and last year that percentage had increased to more than 90%. Increased! Awesome coalition, dudes. Rock on. Sicken yourself further here, if I have not ruined your day already.
OK, let me keep trying. Who is eating all that mackerel? Salmon. Farmed salmon. Most of the mackerel are ground up to produce fish meal for salmon farms, where the conversion ratio is approximately 4 pounds of mackerel to your dinner for 4 (or one pound of salmon.) 80 to 90% of the salmon consumed in the US is farmed, by the way, with disastrous results for natural populations.
I'm as attentive to resources like Good Catch and the Monterey Bay Aquarium list of "greener" fish choices as the next self-flagellating, confused, hungry, do-good wannabe. But the lists begin to lose some of their powers of persuasion for me when I hear a back story like this one. It's all relative, and the conditions of that relativity are unknown to most of us, who see "organic eco-farmed salmon" and think that sounds like it might be an OK choice. What is it that is supposed to matter, now that I think of it here in the store with the line forming behind me? Organic means no chemicals, so that's good because I think regular salmon is colored with synthetic dye and pumped up on pharmaceuticals, or was it farmed is better, because then natural stocks are not overfished, or was it that wild-caught that was the way to go, because there's something about farming that is bad? What did I read, again? (For reference, just file away that you can freely ignore the "organic" label in the fish market; there are no standards for organic certification for fish, it is not regulated at all and is entirely at the whim of the producer to slap the label on).
The thing of it is, these are tough times for the mackerel, and the native apple, and the honeybee, and for any human trying to source their food responsibly. What is good for our geriatric brains is hell on the planet; increasingly, it seems that what's good for the planet is for all of us to lie down very quietly and try not to work up an appetite or drive anywhere.
It's tempting to respond by throwing the hands upward. Too much to attend to! Gotta eat!
In times of dietary confusion, I always roll back to two things: something I can source near me, and vegetables. Thank goodness it's spring, and those twain are getting ready to meet again. Something from the dirt close by always soothes.
No recipe today. Just some sparks, to light the fire of the first foods of spring. What's ready where you are? (Forgive me but I don't really want to hear your answer on this one if you live west of, like, Pennsylvania, OK? You folks just answer in your heads.)
Here's your sparks:
These raw and sprightly asparagus, or these cooked and spicy ones, or this soup.
Make a radish salad, with slivered radishes and plenty of lemon and parsley and good coarse salt and pepper, or Indian-style, grated, with fresh grated ginger, lime juice and a spike of chile. What about a radish sandwich, using plenty of good butter and salt and dark bread? Or make radish hash browns! The rest of the world seems to be doing it.
Pickle a ramp.
Have good eggs? Make ricotta (there she goes again!) and a frittata thereafter, maybe using not only the mint called for, but the first chives and lovage and greens that are poking up.
Make soup from weeds (and that whey you have in the fridge now!).
Have a great weekend. Monday is cookie day! (No fish in the cookies.)