Follow us:

All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

July 9, 2014 at 12:54 PM

Saving salmon: Author Paul Greenberg speaks on our ‘American Catch’

Paul Greenberg photo by Justin Schein

Paul Greenberg photo by Justin Schein

If our country’s famed Copper River salmon runs were threatened by a massive mining project, I think diners nationwide would be protesting the plans. Why, I asked journalist Paul Greenberg a few years ago, wasn’t there a bigger outcry about the proposed Pebble Mine project in Alaska and its effect on Bristol Bay salmon?

It’s Bristol Bay salmon, after all, that ordinary people are eating year-round, whether in supermarket cans or in packages of smoked sockeye from Trader Joe’s. While the Copper River run is rarified and rich, Bristol Bay is the biggest sockeye run in the world. Greenberg described it as “the world’s best protein,” tasting great, relatively inexpensive, completely natural, low in pollutants, high in omega-3s, locally sourced.

The answer? Maybe Bristol Bay salmon, Greenberg said, never had a Jon Rowley, the Copper River tastemaker who opened the world’s eyes to an existing treasure.

At this point, though, the salmon run may have found its own passionate champion in Greenberg, who has spent years covering the topic. Bristol Bay salmon is featured along with New York oysters and Gulf Coast shrimp in Greenberg’s new book, “American Catch: The Fight For Our Local Seafood.” He will speak at Town Hall at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 10. Cost: $5, with tickets online here.

He describes in the book how our relationship with seafood has become more distant. Americans don’t eat much, and, in a huge shift over the past 30 years, we buy it from supermarkets rather than fishmongers.

Most of the fish we do eat — 91 percent! — is imported, some of it from dubious sources, he writes. Oddly, that’s not because we have a seafood shortage. Much of what we catch here, including that wild Alaskan salmon, is exported. Some of the salmon is even exported to China for cheap processing, then imported back here.

Greenberg talks about the peculiar logic that’s caused our local seafood system to unravel, and what’s at stake if we don’t reel it back in.

Sockeye strip tacos photo

Locally, the Bristol Bay cause has become more high-profile than it once was, with chefs like Tom Douglas taking a stand on it and restaurants like Skillet calling out Bristol Bay salmon on their menus. The mine project has faced setbacks, though it’s still unresolved.

Here’s a Terry Gross interview with Greenberg on the new book. Greenberg also summarized some of his points here.

After the Town Hall talk July 10, guests are invited to stay for a book signing and a light reception with Greenberg — with canapes prepared by Tom Douglas Restaurants, made from, natch, Bristol Bay salmon. While it doesn’t have the fat content of the gorgeous Copper River, he told me long ago, it’s also a question of branding.

“I bet you a nice, fresh Bristol Bay sockeye next to a nice Copper River sockeye, blind taste-tested — I don’t know if there are too many people who could tell the difference.”

Comments

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►