Some Serious Thinking about Salmon, Bass, Cod, and Tuna.
I was only a quarter of the way into Paul Greenberg’s groundbreaking novel Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, but I have to admit I was getting a bit annoyed. Greenberg was giving the facts, and I wanted advice. I was enthralled with the idiosyncrasies of wild salmon spawning, and the more wild extremes farmers went to raise captive populations, but I wanted it straightforward, black or white. What could I eat sustainably, and what couldn’t I?
Many chapters later—after the lesson on Israeli bass farming and the overfishing of cod and tuna—I bit my tongue at my early annoyance. There I was (in the ‘Conclusion’), among the eager chorus Greenberg had come to despise during his quest for fishy knowledge.
For Greenberg, a frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine, the question is not so much about which fish, but more about less fish. His book is a thoroughly engaging read, part memoir, mostly educational foray into the complicated science and facts behind the grim state of fish.
Greenberg shapes his book around the nitty gritties of the four most commonly consumed fish: salmon, bass, cod, and tuna. And as he painstakingly points out, these aren’t necessarily the best options to end up on your dinner table. These are species whose wild populations are overfished in every instance, they don’t take well to farming practices, and, because of their larger size, the fish consume much more food than they produce (an adult tuna may require as much as 20 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of consumable meat).
Traveling about the world looking for a better solution—from Australia and Asia to Hawaii, Greenberg offers a number of suggestions. He puts forth barramundi, Kona Kampachi, and tilapia among others, suggesting fish that are relatively unknown to consumers but are easily farmed, eat vegetarian diets, and have a feed conversion rate closer to one to one.
Our rEATers food book club has been voting on books for the last several months now, and Four Fish made its way to the top of the list from the start. This is on the heavier side of our reading choices, but luckily there are options for those of us who can’t help but take our reading lessons to heart. Thanks to the food blog Nona Brooklyn, I stumbled upon the local Community Supported Fishery Mermaid’s Garden, and the wild Alaskan Salmon available in New York, just as I was wrapping up the book. And while I’ve searched for barramundi at my local Whole Foods to no avail, I’ll keep trying.
But the overall message I took from Four Fish was that we need to reduce the total amount of fish we consume; the ocean just can’t support the kind of demands we put on it. With that in mind, this radish dip is my take on a fish spread—a bright, tangy topping for crackers that can sub in on a day when you decide to put fish on hold. I hope you enjoy, and that you’ll think about passing on fish every once in awhile. And perhaps you’ll pick up Four Fish as your summer read!
9 small radishes, washed and grated
1 cup reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons diced parsley
Freshly cracked black pepper
Whole wheat crackers
In a small bowl, mix the radish, yogurt, garlic, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on crackers.