Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thinking it through

One of the benefits of doing this blog is that it makes me more conscious of the choices I make. Having to tell on myself means that I have to be more aware of when I'm too willing to let myself off the hook on that tenuous nexus between simple, sustainable, frugal, and green. So here are a couple of events from the last week that bore further reflection:

1 - Saturday morning (determined to take a week off from shul after the recent holiday) I was looking for something to do with the family so we decided to go fruit picking. I've already written about my inability to find berries at the farmers' markets so I thought I'd go direct to the source. We went to a place south of town and they weren't picking berries, they were picking cherries, and sour ones, that you put into pies. We thought, okay, and picked almost 10 pounds of them. $1.75/pund, much less than they would be at the store.

While we were there we were talking to a woman who was telling us what to do with them. She said, put them through a cherry pitter, freeze them with a little sugar and thaw them in time to wow your guests for Thanksgiving. We said, sounds good.

Now all we needed was a cherry pitter. In the best of all worlds we would have found one used or at a yard sale, but of course, as usual, the time you want to buy something is the time when you need it, and we called around a few of the second-hand stores and they didn't have what we needed. Williams-Sonoma only had a 1-at-a-time pitter, and that wouldn't work, so we ended up ordering one on-line. It cost $17. This now doubles the cost of the adventure, as well as the cost of the cherries.

While waiting for it to arrive, the cherries are starting to soften. We figure since we're going to cook them anyway it doesn't matter if they're soft, but we have them in the fridge in the hopes of preventing all-out rotting. Hopefully the pitter will arrive so that the adventure is just more expensive, rather than a complete flushing of the money. And we also have to convince ourselves that we're going to use our solid-gold cherry pitter more than this once, and that it's not going to end up at our yard sale, benefitting someone more forward thinking than we.

2 - I was in the store over the weekend and decided I would like some fish to have in the freezer. We haven't been having much fish lately and Pollan's book talked a lot about omega-3s. I made the mistake, once again, of not thinking it out ahead of time. I have been buying wild caught salmon lately - it's more expensive but I like it a lot better than the steroid-pumped, colorized pieces of protein that pass for salmon from the farm. But then, sometimes one gets tire of salmon altogether, so I thought I'd buy a white fish. So there I am at the counter, looking at the fish and comparing prices and whether they're wild- and farm-raised, and I ended up guessing, and buying wild-caught orange roughy. Why, you ask? Because it was on sale!

Problem 1 is that it's from New Zealand, so the food mile footprint is miles wide - 6000 miles, to be precise. Of course, one is not going to get "local fish" in the middle of Kansas, but still. To tell the truth, I was dazzled by the word "wild caught." As a rule, wild is better than farmed, because of all the damage fish farms can do to their environment - antibiotics especially. But on the other hand, wild can just as easily mean that they just throw the nets down there and pick up anything that moves...

...which appears to be the case with orange roughy. As soon as I got home, I did what I should have done before I left, and looked at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch site. This is a wonderful resource which tells you a lot about what kind of seafood to buy, and why. There's also a wallet-sized print-out that you can bring to the store with you.

So I put "orange roughy" in the search engine and the answer is ... avoid! Darn! They are trawled ("wild caught" in this case is kind of a slogan; they're all wild caught), and also they take 20 years to reach sexual maturation so if you snag one there may not be another one for a long time. "Years of heavy fishing have decimated orange roughy populations."

I feel like I just got three lemons on a slot machine, but the truth is, if I had thought about it before I went I could have done the necessary research and bought the right kind. Let that be a lesson to me!

2 comments:

Susan said...

Thought you'd be interested in this short omega-3 video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIgNpsbvcVM

aquaken said...

If you have a PDA or similar mobile device, you can type in seafoodwatch.org and get the recommendations instantly.

Ken Peterson, Monterey Bay Aquarium