Fish Fight

If your favourite fish is salmon, tuna or cod (yes, sushi-eaters, I’m looking at you), you’re part of the problem.

It’s not so much of an over-fishing problem anymore, since fishers in most countries adhere to strict quotas. The problem is more that the quota system doesn’t really work.

Trawlers go out onto the ocean, drop net and scoop up everything that gets caught in that net. But they can only bring ashore anything that is within their quota. If they’ve already met their quota of cod, and there’s cod in that net, what happens to it? It gets dumped, usually dead, back into the sea. So besides doing absolutely nothing to stop the “overfishing” of cod, it wastes a lot of otherwise edible fish that could be going to feed people. In most cases, UK fishers are having to dump 50% of their catch because they are not legally allowed to bring it onto land. They can still *catch* it, they just can’t sell it.

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Gardens and Jealousy – Both Green

Most readers may not be familiar with the rapier pen of one A A Gill, a restaurant and television critic for the UK Times. Gill has recently had it in for the various UK chefs working to promote healthy, local, seasonal eating in Britain, and appears to take special exception to food journalist-turned-farmer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Hugh F-W runs a farm, shop and restaurant operation called River Cottage in the Dorset area, and currently has a series on the air in the UK called River Cottage Autumn, in which he delves into the seasonal delights of local UK food, from the garden harvest, to fish in season to the fine art of foraging.

Gill reviews an episode of River Cottage Autumn in a recent television column, ostensibly killing two birds with one stone. But he’s not especially nice – to Hugh F-W, or to the millions of people who happen to revel in the joy of a home-grown tomato.

Why should poor, fearful folk have to put up with a bucketful of organic new-age anxiety to go with the anxiety their imperfect lives manufacture all on their own, especially when it’s created by a home-made television presenter in a Beatrix Potter set? The idea that ideal people should strive to live like 18th-century crofters is intellectual silage. The enthusiasm may be charming, but this fetishising of food is part of the problem, not the solution. Shirley Conran once said that life was too short to stuff a mushroom. She was wrong. But you’d have to live an awfully long time to make making your own baked beans on toast worthwhile. Self-sufficiency is not an admirable goal, it’s small-minded, selfish, mean, mistrustful and ultimately fascist. It ends up with people waving shotguns at strangers over their garden gates. We live in a complex, mutually reliant society, and the answer to our problems is not each to his own cabbage patch.

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Building the Green Link

The folks at Slow Food Toronto have issues.

This past Monday, February 26th, they met at Hart House, along with a variety of local farmers, food purveyors, chefs and media to discuss how to best deal with them.

The issues being, of course, how to set up links between small local farms and the restaurants and consumers (aka. co-producers) who want their products.

A panel consisting of farmers, farmer’s market organizers and restaurateurs discussed the hurdles faced by everyone in ensuring local produce made it to local plates. Speakers included Stephen Alexander of Cumbrae’s; Susan Benson of the Culinary Tourism Initiative; Pamela Cuthbert, food writer and Slow Food Toronto founder; Anne Freeman of the Dufferin Grove Market; Jamie Kennedy of Jamie Kennedy Kitchens; and Mark Trealout of Kawartha Ecological Growers, as well as panel moderator Wayne Roberts of the Toronto Food Policy Council.

With a goal of forging partnerships between local growers and both restaurants and farmer’s market customers, the panel took turns speaking on various initiatives to increase awareness and dialogue.

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