When it comes to sorting the ins and outs of Chinese food, L.A. values the wisdom of Jonathan Gold. In an op-ed piece for The L.A. Times this past Sunday, the Pulitzer Prize-rocking restaurant critic pushes for a ban on shark fin, adding his voice to the state’s latest culinary controversy. The scribe details both the difficulty of preparing (and sometimes eating) the delicacy, as well as its place in Chinese cuisine, before noting that an increase in the Chinese middle class has raised demand into the millions for the item annually and lead to the cruel practice of finning, and eventual endangerment of the creatures existence.
Gold, whose brother is the president of Heal the Bay, wants California to join Hawaii, Washington, and Oregon in enacting a ban, as “we have reached the point where some shark populations have been reduced to 10% of historical levels, and nearly a third of shark species are approaching the point of extinction.”
Gold is certainly a man who treasures delicacies and also understands the cultural sensitivities at play here. The writer adds: “The ban would affect mostly Chinese Americans, who make up almost all of the market for fins…Chinese Americans are being asked to give up something real, with many years of tradition…But Chinese culinary culture has proved resilient over the centuries, as able to absorb such foreign ingredients as chiles and squashes as it has been to withstand the absence of sea turtle skirt and bear paw, whose preparation obsessed the earliest Chinese gourmets.”
Even if he did like his last bite of shark’s fin, Gold just can’t “work up an appetite for the bitter taste of extinction.” Short of denying shark fin to its eaters for all of eternity, he writes, “We need to stop eating shark’s fin, at least until shark populations have had a chance to recuperate…we either stop eating it because we choose to preserve the species, or we stop eating it because soon there will be none left to eat.”