[Sca-cooks] Beware of the fish -off on a tangent

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius.magister at verizon.net
Mon Aug 7 08:55:54 PDT 2006

On Aug 7, 2006, at 11:12 AM, ysabeau wrote:

> http://www.sptimes.com/2006/08/05/Tampabay/You_order_grouper_wha.sh
> tml

The problem seems to be [mostly] that there is no international  
standard of identity, and marketers can pretty much call a fish  
anything they want to without specifically lying about its genus and  
species, and if they're selling it overseas, it's very hard for the  
buyer to tell.

Even in the US, the example everyone knows about is scrod, which is  
not a specific fish, but anything within some rather broad family of  
characteristics, but most often hake, ling, etc. But then you've got  
things like "Chilean Sea Bass", which is neither Chilean nor a sea  
bass, and which is, in fact, either Arctic Char or Sablefish, a.k.a.  
Pacific black or rock "cod". Which also isn't a cod ;-).

I noted that some of the fish identified in the article seemed to be  
sold under names for fish groups I had never even heard of, such as  
Gulf Grouper, which could be a grouper-like fish from some  
unspecified Gulf off the Pacific, actual black, red or yellow grouper  
from the Gulf of Mexico, or almost anything in between.

I think restaurants that aren't able to be both extremely  
conscientious and extremely accurate should just offer fish specials,  
based on what looks good on a given day, and labelled and priced  

My favorite example of Sinister Asian Fish Hoodwinkery occurred in a  
Cantonese restaurant close to my home (sadly, now closed), and the  
owner had gotten in a couple of large fish from someplace or other,  
for a large group of diners, and he had a "spare" which he offered to  
us (I think he may have been hitting on my mother-in-law ;-)  ). He  
said he didn't know what the English name for it was, and the fish  
wasn't something from Asia, so he didn't really know what it was,  
except it was large, firm, white, sweet, and not especially bony. He  
wasn't real forthcoming as to where he got the fish, either...

I'm trying to follow this conversation in my extremely limited  
Cantonese, mind you, when the man gets up and disappears into the  
kitchen, and returns a moment later with this large, live fish in his  
hands. It is quite clearly a freshwater black bass of the small-mouth  
variety, and I say, "Oh, okay, that's a smallmouthed bass!" The  
people at the next table, who are busy eating the other one with  
great relish, hear this and all chime in, "Ooooooh, so _that's_ what  
it is... we thought it might be striped bass, but we weren't sure..."

I asked them if anyone present was any kind of state fish, game, or  
wildlife service officer, they said no, I replied, "Good!", and  
wished them a lovely dinner...


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