Sunday, January 18, 2009

Give a girl a fish and she'll eat for a day...

When I was ten years old, I read a book called The Livewire Guide to Going, Being and Staying Veggie by Juliet Gellatley. Somehow, inspired by that book, I found the willpower to become a strict vegetarian for eleven years. Then, when I hit my twenties, I started craving meat. A lot. I even dreamt about it! Steak with mushroom sauce featured prominently, as did roast lamb, butter chicken, fish and chips, chicken sausages, beef in black bean sauce... I cracked after a few years of these dreams, when I made a dish of crumbed lemon chicken for friends. On an impulse I gobbled a piece of it down, and it tasted SO good. It marked the beginning of the horrible/wonderful Year Of Meat - I ate so much meat, it was like I was making up for eleven years of deprivation. I was loving the taste, my body was telling me it was the right thing to do by it health-wise... You'd think that'd be the end of the story right?

The problem being that I just couldn't reconcile what I was doing with what I believed, so I had guilt guilt guilt galore for the whole year. To make matters worse my views on meat had matured and broadened and became as much about the environment and sustainability as they were about animal rights. So how could I believe in animal rights and an environmentally friendly and sustainable meat-free lifestyle, and yet be stuffing my face with chops and steak? Hypocrisy much?

So I tried cutting out all meat except fish from my diet. I felt I couldn't cut everything out again without failing, so it was better to cut out most than none at all. Fish seemed the obvious choice because it seemed to offer health benefits that other foods couldn't easily substitute, and because it was the only animal I could imagine killing myself (weird but there it is). I also felt, after finding the book Guide to Fish: Choosing and cooking sustainable species, that I could at least satisfy the sustainable/environmental aspect of my concerns, if not the animal rights one. So, I became a pescatarian (or "vegequarian" lol).
The Guide to Fish uses a super user-friendly system of colour coding - green means the fish is considered sustainable enough to eat regularly (Australian salmon's my favourite!), amber means it is a fish you should buy less often (the author suggests once every few weeks), and red means don't buy it at all. Seeing as I eat fish about once a week, I tend to eat the amber ones even more occasionally, usually once a month (I have a taste for Barramundi). The book also tells you great info about each fish: when it's in season, what the fresh fillet should look like, the texture and flavour of the fish, and which method of cooking best suits each species. Amazing! I carry this book around with me when I do my shopping for fish, and read through it when I get a spare minute to try and memorise which fish are a definite no-no. Before I bought this book I had eaten shark (flake) and swordfish, which this book puts on the red list. I had really enjoyed the taste of both, but have committed to never eating red list fish. I would like to know more about these red-list fish though, so that I'm making that commitment with my eyes open.

I do hope, at some point, to move beyond imagining being able to kill a fish, and actually do it. If I can handle it, then bring on the many years of fish eating. If it's horribly traumatic and I can't imagine ever doing it again, I may have to give fish up again (my poor friends and family, how will they ever keep up with what I do and don't eat!). I think it's important to experience this, as I want to make decisions like this with my eyes open from now on...

The possibility of so-called 'ethical' meat - kangaroo, free range, organic etc - is something I'd like to research further too. I don't know if killing an animal can be ethical at all in my mind, but maybe very occasionally eating meat that is as ethical as possible could help stem the daily cravings for it that I still get without breaking the conscience bank... I doubt I can go and watch a kangaroo being shot, but it may be possible to do a tour of a free range chicken or organic meat supplier? Anyway that's something to investigate along the way.

1 comment:

  1. The title for your blog is awesome. Nice work. I was familiar with the color coding of fish, but I never knew who did the research. Thanks for solving that mystery for me. I highly recommend THE GUIDE TO FISH, especially if you spend much time in the kitchen or currently enjoy eating much fish. Know what you're eating.


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