Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Seafood Summit-rebranding sustainable seafood

What shall we call the ocean product formerly known as sustainable seafood? Chef Barton Seaver has a tongue-in-cheek answer and it's a mouthful.

And then we can get back to the food odyssey in Barcelona...

Seaver (top left) has Hook in Washington DC, a marvelous sustainable seafood restaurant. He spoke on a panel with chef Gerard Viverito and the two of them made a pitch for making sustainable seafood work better, for more people, and with a sense of celebration.

Seaver noted that the organic food movement has lost some of its original ethos, and made a suggestion for keeping sustainable seafood in touch with the real issues. It was a delightful suggestion for rebranding sustainable seafood that did a great job capturing the difficulty of the task. His solution, reprinted in it's entirety:

Autochthonous environmentally or ecologically friendly (define friendly) seafood or other such pleasures derived from comestible experiences formerly relating to the ocean, whose social value extends beyond the law of commons to ensure an enduring experience for all involved...

...not compromising the habitat or seafarer’s ability to adequately provide for his/her family, while providing a tax base for globalization within & without of communities (define communities) as it relates to global well-being of the commodity heretofore to be called “FISH” as presented in Exhibit A through...

...as a product meant to capture desires, both primal & ideological, of a consumer base (define consumer base) in a market setting (define market setting) so the end result sustains human life with a sense of enjoyment.

OK, so the product formerly known as sustainable seafood now has a much more encompassing definition a la Seaver. Then, getting a bit more serious, he offered this comment on reality:

The range of possible interpretations is infinite. How a word is defined falls short of how we define our actions. At the heart of the matter is that sustainability is not an environmental concern, but a social one.

Well said, Barton.

This is not to slight Gerard Viverito, he offerd a very engaging presentation on the need for people to become educated and informed, and he called upon well-funded advocacy groups to quit trying to use people (e.g. chefs) as tools in achieving political goals. Instead, he asks all of us to keep it real for people like chefs, quit offering simple answers, and recognize the many viewpoints and issues involved in the highly complex sustainability-sphere. In summary, he wants more optimism and participation in advancing sustainability.

Gerard's presentation is available on Ocean Commotion, the blog from Passionfish, which is one of his many passionate activities. I suggest that everyone read his presentation, at least twice, it speaks volumes and says it very well.

To complement these great presentations, I offer my own synthesis of several different presentations, including the final panel member Stephen "Mr. Fish" Potter of the Hastings Borough Council, who explained the efforts of a small fishing port to rebrand their products as sustainable and thus build value for the fish and the fishing community.

At risk of offending Gerard Viverito, I'll blithely speak in a soundbite in the hope of finding a big picture value-laden goal to remember. That means here's my take-home message so far:

"Sustainability is a journey, the path taken is important, and there is no single destination."

Thus spake blogfish, from an inspiring conference in a beautiful city.

Now on to more "autochthonous environmentally or ecologically friendly (define friendly) seafood or other such pleasures derived from comestible experiences formerly relating to the ocean..."

It seems that the quest for molecular gastronomy will prove ultimately futile, so abandoning single goals, and appreciating the journey, I plan to ramble La Rambla and thus seek autochthonous pleasures.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you're having a marvelous time. Say hello to Barton for me. I look forward to more news from Barcelona.

Anonymous said...

My god..... just tried the steakhouse sampler through Lobster Gram, they are so yummy......

Anonymous said...

I am not sure that this food is sustainable or not, but like cioppino, a tomato-based seafood. With a loaf of bread and a glass of white wine, this stew stands out and makes a great meal.