Friday, April 17, 2009

Food for thought!

Hello Friends;
Food is my passion, and there are times when I really enjoy testing my skills by creating a meal from what I have available or the simplest of ingredients. Unfortunately for many people this method of cooking is a necessity and a daily occurrence. Most cultures have favourite recipes that are derived from a era when the general masses of people were extremely poor, relative to today's standards and expectations.
I have to say that some of the best meals I have had has been of an ethnic, home made nature. Everyone is aware enjoyment of food is the result of harvesting a crop or killing an animal, but I believe that this process should be done with care, consideration and in the case of animals, as humanely as possible. To cull humanely and utilise every part, for example as the Italians do with their pork, is surely the least we can do as guardians of the planet and top of the food chain. I am by no means a greenie, but I do recognise that the foods we source must be sustainable, lets face it, no one wants to be responsible for the extinction of a species. Which brings me to the point of this article.
Shark fining is a process whereby sharks are caught and their dorsal, pectoral, and tail fins are cut off. In most cases the shark is returned to the sea while still alive and endures a slow death of up to 6 days. 173 million sharks per year are processed this way, mainly for the Asian markets insatiable appetite for shark fin soup. Hong Kong is the worlds largest shark fin trading centre and accounts for 50-75% of all fins traded and it is a growing trade.To compound the problem sharks grow slowly, mature late and give birth to their pups after a long gestation period. This barbaric practice is, made worse by the fact that the fins represent 5% of the sharks body weight, talk about wastage! With 110 species listed as threatened and another 95 as near threatened we must stop and consider whether we need shark fin soup from the local Chinese restaurant. I guess the US$700 per kg that sets of fins can fetch, is an incentive for fishermen to target sharks. Demand however dictates the price, so vote with your feet I say.

Whaling is another example of financial reward and tradition blinding nations to the serious consequences of their actions. Japan, Iceland, Norway, and Denmark are still involved in whaling, often under the guise of research. I have a video clip which I want you to see, entitled "Speed Cooking" which is again relevant to this post.

Just as an aside, the oceans apex predators i.e fish which are typically larger and at top of the food chain tend to contain a high level of mercury. Shark, Swordfish, Broadbill and Marlin fit into this category, and as such are not recommended to eat more than 2 portions per week. Whale and Dolphin are considerably higher still! And I was surprised to learn that Dolphin is still being hunted in parts of Japan, at the rate of approximately 23,000 per year, and sold in supermarkets. A 100gram pack which contains a balance of meat, skin and fat, at the time of writing costs approximately 170 yen or US1.72 I will leave it up to you to make up your own mind, after all it's just food for thought.

I promise the next Chef Jules post will be more light hearted and have one of my favourite recipes, so Ciao for now.

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