Cooking for Sustainability

by Eleanor Howell

August 10, 2012

I spent almost every night last summer working as a sous chef in a tiny, sweltering kitchen of an inn restaurant in Maine, plating elegant seafood dishes and picking lobsters until my hands were nicked and sore. This summer I spent my days in a Washington, DC office interning for Greenpeace USA. These were two of the most rewarding summers of my life.

In my hometown of coastal Maine, I spent my summers working in restaurants where I developed a fierce love of food, especially seafood. By the end of last summer I was proud of my ability to pick lobster claws and oysters apart with speed and finesse. So when I came to Greenpeace this summer I was eager to dive into a campaign with goals to promote sustainable fishing and do away with commercial fishing practices that steadily destroy the oceans. Thus, two of the other interns and I spent much of this summer working on a project that raises awareness and provokes discussion about tuna and the unsustainable fishing practices accompanying that particular-and delicious- fish. Tuna is an important fish. Not only is it extremely popular, it is also extremely affordable. Unfortunately, commercial fishing companies fish tuna with reckless abandon, including the three leading canned tuna brands: Chicken of the Sea, Bumblebee and Starkist. Devices like FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices) catch juvenile tuna and threaten the supply of the species, as well as copious amounts of other sea life. When fishing vessels use their giant, sweeping nets to scoop up tuna, they scoop up everything that has gathered around the FADs: juvenile tuna, whale sharks, dolphins, sea turtle and numerous other fishes and sharks.

The reality that tuna is unsustainable, and many fishing stocks are rapidly depleting, is now a commonplace fact for people in my generation. When I was a kid my mom read up on mercury in large, predatory fish and banned canned tuna from our house. She was also vocally concerned about the overfishing and bycatch associated with tuna. As a kid I fretted enough about the dolphins caught in tuna nets to forego tuna salad, a favorite of mine. It wasnt until I started working at Greenpeace and learned about the tuna and seafood campaigns that I realized that if I didnt want seafood, not just tuna, to become a thing of the past, I would have to join the fight in demanding sustainable fishing practices. I urge everyone who enjoys tuna, seafood in general, and who doesnt want to see numerous other marine species unnecessarily killed in the fishing process, to do the same. Sign the petition to tell Chicken on the Sea to stop using FADs, and ask them lead the way in sustainable fishing.

Once my fellow interns and I realized that the campaign Greenpeace has diligently pursued during the past few years was as critical to the fate of the world and humankind as climate change or energy use, we have been working this summer on a webpage detailing the ongoing campaign to stop overfishing and save our tuna supplies.

We also joined Greenpeaces Think Outside the Can recipe contest and created a recipe for tuna-free tuna casserole. We made a cooking video to show off Leila Giles and Alice Richardsons talents as the video and photo interns respectively. We tried very hard to limit the cheesiness with some success-but Ill let you be the judge. The night before we filmed our cooking video I stayed up late tinkering with a recipe with the Internets help, of course. Since my mother stopped making tuna casserole when I was little (or as my parents fondly called it-tuna goop), I had really no idea what went into a tuna casserole. I decided to honor the traditional American ingredients of this dish, (with a few of my own embellishments). Cream of mushroom soup, potato chips on top, and instead of a can of tuna, a crushed can of chickpeas. Check it out above, and spread the word!


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