Once undesireable fish served in fine restaurants.

Regarding this week’s column: Are upscale restaurants serving ugly fish?, Cecil missed an opportunity to answer that in ways that would befuddle and bemuse many a seafood snob.

Lobsters were once caught almost exclusively to feed prisoners, servants, and the poor in pre-Civil War America… Likewise oysters were pretty much the food of desperation in the Victorian era. True, neither are “fish”, but both are excellent examples of highly sought after seafood delicacies that were once considered virtually inedible.

hey there…can you post this in big letters in national newspapers!!! Excellent column.

For some reason, this is one of Cecil’s most depressing columns I have read for a long time…

I realise that it’s important info, but still it makes me wonder what real chance we have, when the default attitude of so many seems to be “Grab all that you possibly can while you can, and to hell with tomorrow.”

I have tried to be a good citizen (started recycling years back, stopped eating meat and poultry 15+ years ago, conserve energy whenever possible) but more and more I wonder why bother, as my insignificant efforts are not even a drop in a drop in the bucket.

“Waiter, I don’t like the looks of this fish!”

“If it’s looks you’re after, may I suggest goldfish?”

The notion of eating crawdads or crawfish (a ‘water bug’ rather than a fish for those who don’t know) was so absurd it was getting canned laughter on The Beverly Hillbillies and mentioned as a “rubes will eat anything” punchline on Dukes of Hazzard and other shows. Somewhere along the line they got gentrified: today you can still find people sucking the heads at big plebeian crawfish boils but you can also find them (their tails especially) baked into delicate pastries or used in rich sauces or even as the main dish, claws and head and antennae and all, at many expensive and well reviewed seafood restaurants. They’re even raised commercially for sale to grocery stores and restaurants. (If you’ve never tasted a crawdad, the tail basically tastes like what it is- a freshwater shellfish cousin of shrimp or a freshwater gnome cousin of lobster.)

A little harder to find, and also not fish ‘but lives amongst them’, is alligators. Previously something associated with crazy cartoon Cajuns, I’ve seen gator served in upscale restaurants (where some people eat it just because it sounds unusual and find out that cooked correctly [and there are many ways to cook it] it’s quite yummy).

Makes me wonder if chit[ter]lin[g]s or possum might one day be reclaimed “for the quality”.

When they serve squirrel as a delicacy, and pigeon squab as a Thanksgiving treat, I know we have both gone to the dogs and at the same time, finally worked out how to handle a serious natural imbalance. :smiley:

The Alaska salmon fishery is a sustainable fishery and it was not mentioned. They do not allow fish farming in Alaska and some of the runs are as strong as they were in the 1930’s and 60’s and 70’s. However it is more difficult for the fisherman in AK to make a living due to the cost of fishing today and trying to compete in price with farmed salmon. The Alaska fisheries is one of the best, if not the best in the World.

When you see “fish” on a fast food menu board or on a package of processed food (like fish sticks), with nothing more specified, you’re essentially getting what’s left. That is to say, whatever sort of mildly flavored white-fleshed fish is cheap because it’s still relatively plentiful. It’s a pretty discouraging situation :frowning:

Inspired by today’s column

I like fish. I like fish and shellfish and other sea critters. I also prefer to eat fairly healthy food - at least I wouldn’t like to get cancer from it! - and I wouldn’t like to deplete the ocean.

So, given all that, what fish/shellfish - if any - are good options?

Salmon seems to be out, which is a shame. Eel too, and I actually prefer eel. I really like Tub Gurnard, which seems to be plentyful and cheap over here (I live in Western Europe). ETA: Also herring, but then, I’m Dutch, so it’s mandatory :slight_smile:

What about mussels? Shrimp?

So you’re just looking for healthy, sustainable fish? This is a good place to look.

And tasty! :slight_smile: Thanks for the link, though.

ETA: seems like mussels are a good choice. Yes! Shrimp depends.

Farmed catfish.

You might also be interested in the Seafood Watch recommendations:


I know a guy who volunteers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and he’s always handing out those lists.

From what I understand, one possible solution is to eat lower on the food chain. Sardines, for example, are (at the moment at least) considered among the most sustainable sources of animal protein on the planet.

Fish farming is generally bad (trout being a notable exception), but shellfish farming runs the gamut. Farmed shrimp bad, farmed mussels good.

I have read that farmed mussels and oysters actually improve their ocean habitat, as bivalves act as a natural water filter, cleaning the seawater that they are raised in.

Since this is about Cecil’s column, let’s move it there from GQ.

samclem Moderator, General Questions

And then you eat them. :slight_smile:

Anyone know the deal with farmed tilapia? Good or bad?

Not sure if this is correct, but I’ve read that farmed fish don’t really solve the problem, as we still have to go out into the ocean and catch everything we feed to the farmed fish. It stops the wild salmon (or whatever) from ending up on your plate, but at the same time depletes their foodstocks. No net environmental gain.

I thought so. Then a friend, describing how the zebra mussel had raised visibility in Lake Michigan from a couple feet to forty feet of clear water, and I recalled how, and on what, filter feeders feed. You may want them to clean the water for a few more decades before you eat any of them.

I used to enjoy eating fish. I don’t anymore. What really clinched it was a report on ATC (NPR’s All Things Considered) some years back describing the new market for Alaskan Pollack. A rep from the industry claimed that fishermen were not overfishing, while another report claimed they were pulling a billion pounds of pollack out of the Bering Sea. Any idiot could figure out that, by adding a new predator into the ecosystem that ate a billion more pounds of fish, you were going to screw it completely. At that point I lost all sympathy for commercial fishermen who pissed and moaned about any attempt to rein in their rape of the habitat.

I suspect that farmed freshwater fish, like tilapia, are not nearly as problematic as saltwater fish because the waste can be quickly, easily, and locally turned into fertilizer.