Monday, September 6, 2010

Congress in Session

Canadian Chefs' Congress 2010: Oceans for Tomorow.

Canadian Chefs' Congress 2010: Oceans for Tomorow.

Canadian Chefs' Congress 2010: Oceans for Tomorow.

Canadian Chefs' Congress 2010: Oceans for Tomorow.

Canadian Chefs' Congress 2010: Oceans for Tomorow.

To the Chefs attending from the Okanagan, knowing that you have a long sustainable bike ride ahead of you, here's some fun things to think about as you pedal your way along on HWY 3.

And you should take your bicycle, partially because it is a glorious drive and also, really now, if it wasn't the year of the oil spill, it was the year of spraying the even more disgusting oil dispersant (presently enjoying a good cherning thanks to Hurricane Earl.)

In that fun spirit, lets start here

Now you've probably all seen that by now, but why not watch it again?

And while you're there, why not watch the "critique" (and then ask yourself with whom would you rather dine?)

So first the premise (and some soft, sensible acoustic guitar strumming with a catchy beat)
The Canadian Chefs’ Congress 2010 on Vancouver Island will focus on chefs and their relationship to the ocean and its current fragile state. We will look at sustainable practices as well as the impact of our actions of today on the oceans of tomorrow.

Of course the first question that arises is "exactly what are you trying to sustain?" But before we get into that, let's watch this--a fun little movie based on Alan Weisman's remarkable book The World Without Us.

Based on this delightful little video, what say "we" all call for a 500 year moratorium on all oceanic commerce? No more oil rigs, no more nuclear submarines spraying sonar shattering the minds of aquatic mammals, no more gigantic fishing ships crusing the oceans. Hands up...anyone? Because if "we're" trying to sustain the health of our oceans, we simply need to stop going in the oceans to do the anti-life death kulture shenanigans that Humans (who live on land) like to perp in places that aren't their own. Simply leave the oceans alone.

A nice long "time out." We can tighten up our local beef/pork/lamb/goat meat and dairy reality in the meantime.

If , on the other hand, "we" are trying to maintain old paradigms in the face of even older challenges growing more and more unmanagable with each passing convulsion of late capitalism then I imagine that is another dicussion that's all together different than one surrounding the far simpler question "how do we do right by the ocean?"

Sometimes I think the fish thing has gotten a little out of hand. Who would benefit from a moratorium on all large scale ocean commerce? Probably the people living 100 miles away from the Ocean.

100...miles...away...from...the...ocean. A diet based on that which is within one hundred miles of your home? Hold on...I think we have something here!

Now don't get me wrong. When I'm within 100 miles of the Ocean I love me some sea food. I become one of those squids that moves through the fish eating for pleasure.

When I'm in the Okanagan, I'm not so much caring about the sea food. In fact, I feel sadness and disconnect when I see Halibut on any menu in the southern interior of BC. (Don't worry, I feel sadder and disconnecteder when I see it on a menu in Minneapolis MN.)

I thought it was neat that there was an abundance of Salmon this year. I do love me some salmon, and now that I've had some local salmon, I'm going to want some year after year...our lakes and waterways are amenable to large salmon runs, right? Certainly we want to keep those clean and functional and free from incinerator debris or nuclear waste or things like that. I'm not saying there should be no fish...I'm just saying it needs to be local, and needs to be harvested responsibly, and all the rest.

The Okanagan has as vibrant and diverse a food shed as any place in Canada without Oceanic fish. The Okanagan needs to exploit that more efficiently (in the form of a functional livestock slaughter reality in the south of the valley...maybe a dairy too). Why not build a regional cuisine upon that which is actually local, and in so doing, actually support the local producers and actually invest in the surrounding land? Save the fish for trips to Van.

Questions? Comments?


  1. A great post on the eve of yet another insult to the ocean and our intelligence.

    I couldn't help but notice a few glaring details on the 2010 CCC. First of all, we are going to start off this conference on sustainability the right way. We are going to invite people from all over the country to a small island in the pacific. Yes, people from Ottawa and farther will be in attendance, not via Skype or some other technological device that could in some small way be a boon to sustainability. Once everyone has arrived we are going to all meet on a farm for the Canadian chefs "woodstock" where we will all be welcomed with a brilliant fireworks display. Uhhmmm, were these fireworks locally sourced and produced? Once we are all nicely primed by explosions and beer, cider or meed(the three main reasons that I have heard discussed for attendance, by the way), we can all discuss how too save "our" oceans.

    After reading the phrase "our oceans" for the fourth or fifth time on the registration site, one gets the impression that we still don't get it. "Our oceans" is so far from the point of sustainability that it is laugh out loudable. Perhaps, as Stanley has mentioned, a 500 year ban human/ocean interaction will be a hard sell. Would one or two years be more plausible. I have heard a lot about the cyclical nature of the sockeye salmons annual run, with some years being bigger and some being smaller over the last few weeks. Who is to say that perhaps after a few years of the worst returns in recorded history, the sockeye just put all the cards on the table and went for one last stand. Every fish, make a run for it, spawn like mad and hope to regain a healthy populous. Sorry sockeye, we are going to take 1/3 of you.

    The words sustainable and fishing just don't work on the scale that we are talking here. As long as there are chefs coming in from the prairies to discuss how we can find a way for them to have ocean wise products on their menu, we will never get it right. I feel as though the BC albacore will be next on the list of once plentiful fish now reduced to sea panda status. I recently served albacore as a lunch special. Not because I ordered it or thought that it was an appropriate thing for me to be serving. It was in the freezer and that's what I had to use. Most of my features this year have been fish and it breaks my heart. I know that I am as much part of the problem as everyone else, but I can say with all honesty that If I do open a restaurant some day in the Okanagan there won't be any fish on the menu. Maybe for that short few weeks a year that salmon actually make it this far, but other than that, sorry. We have land animals and vegetables. I really just feel as though "chefs" are the ones who can actually make a difference. We are the middle men between the rape and the pillage, we can actually limit what people are getting on their plates. Sure some people might go elsewhere, but is that so bad. If we all just start to say no to seafood in land locked restaurants at least we have done a small part to aid sustainability.

    I ramble. Anyway, love the post Mr.ZzzzZZz.

  2. It seems to me that as long as the phrase " our oceans" keeps appearing in the 2010 CCC literature, all hope is lost. The point has been missed entirely. I seem to have unearthed the true meaning of this get together though, Fireworks, beer, cider and meed. Yaaaaay chefs! way to pull it in from all over the country for a booze fest on a farm in the name of sustainable fishing. Give it a rest. How can I get sustainable ocean fish to my restaurant in Saskatoon? Uh, you can't asshole! You can't sea the ocean from the top of a mountain, you can't get fish in your restaurant. How about that for a sustainable method of saving the fishes?

    I cry a little inside every time I cook a piece of fish in the restaurant. Why can't I just cook rabbit and quail and pheasant all day? There is a lot of those around here...Oh, and they are all living in vineyards. Wine fed hare or poultry anyone?

  3. For additional information on sustainable seafood options please check out Swift Aquaculture in Aggasiz. Bruce Swift has created a visionary model of sustainability, producing top quality coho miles away from the ocean. He then recycles the water to fertilize wasabi crops. The algae that grows in the wasabi crops in turn feeds his crayfish. Hmm...maybe it's time an Okanagan entrepreneur got on board and made a splash with some trout?

    We do stock many of our lakes with trout for recreational fishing; I wonder if we could create a model to sustainably handle some commercial use? Not feeding the masses but supplying a few local niche restaurants' needs.

    I also want to invite all reading this blog to hold a sustainability conference right here on O.D.S. Share your ideas and experiences, who knows where it might lead.

    I cannot promise fireworks or beer, but maybe it is time to step up to the challenge of holding a truly sustainable conference.

  4. well...if there is no fireworks or beer than how can we have sustainability? ahahhaha...ahahhaahahah.
    When I first moved here from Ontario, the main and really only reason for the move was for the produce, the vegetables and the endless vineyards and orchards. So why oh why all the concern on fish here? I agree. Why not the land animals that we actually have around us, and why not concentrate on that more? Maybe if there were more farms close to us, some of us that are afraid to eat meat because of the practices (pecking, animals kept inside their whole lives, etc) than there would be more of us eating meat also, the right kinds. Unfortunately for myself in particular I am caught at a crossroads when I go to a restaurant...will i be having the only fish option on the menu or the pasta dish without the meat on it? well, I usually opt for the fish because there is well...protein on it! Usually when I ask where the beef or pork is from it's peace river or something like that, well have any of us been to these farms and seen what's going on with these animals? not really.
    That isn't very sustainable either is it? So what should I do...just suck it up and eat peace river meat? Or grain fed local meat? It's a hard pill to swallow for a borderline anemic cook who wants to eat meat but doesn't know how to deal with this conundrum.

  5. oh and wait...we can't even get our local beef very easily because of the lack of slaughter houses.