Seafood Society: Two Stories and a Moral


First, a story:

We had drinks recently with someone who actually, personally knows Laurent Gras (chef at — do you even need to be told? — L.2O) who was waxing rhapsodic about how he is, essentially, a perfect person: besides just being a brilliant chef, the man also has impeccable taste in clothes, listens to amazing music, cycles four hundred miles per week. We frowned into our beer, suddenly feeling like we had a lot to live up to in this world (having only learned to ride a bike last summer, and only ridden a few times since then, we suppose our weekly average comes out to something like seven yards).

And now, another story:

Growing up, our mom always knew which days the fish shipments came in at the local Jewel (or was it Dominick’s?). So when we struck out on our own, we followed her lead: Living in Boston and planning a big bouillabaisse dinner one week, we asked the fishmonger what days the fish came in fresh. He looked at us like we had two heads, possibly three. “Every day,” he deadpanned, and walked over to assist a customer who was more aware of their immediate proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.

And now, the moral:

These days, you can get same-day fresh fish even in Chicago. Or Kansas City, Las Vegas, Montpelier, or Dallas. You can get Pacific salmon in New York, and Atlantic salmon in San Francisco. Tsukiji tuna, caught that very day, at the omakase counter of any headline sushi restaurant in any major city. And it’s great, right? Fresh fish, unspoiled, unsullied by the havoc of freezing and defrosting. Air transit is the best thing to happen to seafood since the invention of tartar sauce. Right?

Up is down! Black is white! Everything old is new again! Apparently, buying fresh fish is a really really really bad idea.

The surprising argument against fresh fish takes two approaches. First, taste: turns out that seafood that is frozen at sea — meaning that as soon as it’s caught, it’s flash-frozen right there on the boat — actually preserves the freshness of the fish much more efficiently than does the sort of high-speed travel more often associated with inter-hospital heart transplants. And secondly, that old carbon footprint: the estimate is that shipping seafood by air generates 10 times more greenhouse gas as doing it by ship, and 5 times more as shipping by truck. Talk about slow food being good food!

In conclusion, we feel a little bit better about the perfection of Laurent Gras, on the assumption that the acquisition of his unblemished seafood costs like nine billion zillion carbon credits to offset. But we kind of secretly think that what he’s doing might actually be worth the side effect of global warming. If you really must know.

Can Chefs Cozy Up to Frozen Fish? [WaPo]
L.2O [MenuPages]
L.2O [Official Site]

[Photo: Sashimi at L2O, via yellow_truffle’s Flickr (we are pretty sure that’s Laurent himself)]

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Seafood Society: Two Stories and a Moral