Saturday night, my husband and I decided to check-out a new tapas restaurant near our home. By the time we were seated, our 8-year-old son was famished, and wasn’t shy about letting me know it. A procession of sangrias and small plates arrived -- fried manchego cheese, watercress salad, house cured salt cod, and seared duck breast. But Cal was hankering for fish. Not just any fish -- he wanted the salmon, and kept pointing his small finger to it on the menu, punctuating it with “Please, Mom?”
Last summer we vacationed in Tofino, on the western edge of Vancouver Island in Canada. We hired a guide and spent an afternoon fishing. Cal pulled in a small chinook, and we grilled it that evening for dinner. In his mind, all salmon come from pristine waters that are occupied by spouting grey whales and whiskery sea otters. But when I asked the waitress what kind of salmon it was, she looked puzzled. Apparently, she doesn’t get asked the question. Ever. It took a trip to the kitchen for her to come back with the unsurprising answer: farmed-raised Atlantic salmon.
Let me preface this with this statement: I absolutely know better.
But when a hungry kid is tugging on your t-shirt, it’s hard to explain that farmed-raised salmon is not the same kind of salmon he was dreaming about. So true confession? I gave in, and in a few greedy mouthfuls he had polished the plate, while my own appetite diminished and a load of guilt set in. I tried not to think about the sea lice.
Monday’s op-ed by Taras Grescoe talked about salmon specifically. He does a good job on explaining why salmon, farmed or wild, is something that he’ll now go without. I know some other food writers who’ve given up tuna entirely, or who’ve chosen to steer clear of foie gras, but food is something we cover as reporters. There’s no ignorance-is-bliss here. We are often more aware of issues surrounding the food we eat than much of the general public. I understand that no other protein on our plate is as complex as fish, but I made the wrong decision.
I don’t know if Grescoe’s conversation will be heard by people who aren’t inherently interested in the topic in the first place. With food issues, there’s a lot of preaching to the choir. In this case, I heard Grescoe’s lament loud and clear, and will use it as a reminder to explain to Cal that fish can be slippery, and that next time? He's getting the chimichurri chicken instead.
– Clare Leschin-Hoar
Image source: Feeding system on salmon farm, Salmon Farm Protest Group/Marine Photobank