A quick view from the “stage” at Georgetown Brewery last week, where a sold-out house packed in to enjoy the awesome beer, eat fantastic food (courtesy of Kevin Davis and the Steelhead Diner) and listen to Jack Berryman, Cameron Scott, John Larison and me read. That’s Jason Rolfe (Writers on the Fly founder) revving up the crowd for Larison’s (back of the head, foreground) beautiful and moving performance.
What an evening! The other readers flat-out blew me away with their work, and it was uplifting to feel the vibe of support–for the readers, and for wild steelhead conservation. Huge thanks to G-Town Brewing, Kevin Davis, Jason Rolfe, Dave McCoy, my fellow readers, and everyone who came out to make it a great event. It was a hell of a party.
The highlight for me, though, was the opportunity to hang out with my good friend Larison. Awesome guy and incredible writer, steelhead angler, hunter and father. Big inspiration for me. Watch out for his new novel–it’s going to be HUGE–and well-deserved mainstream literary recognition in the coming year. I’m just happy us fish people had him to ourselves this night.
In the hustle and bustle of what’s felt like an increasingly chaotic schedule, Weston and I found a little time to make a couple of pumpkin cream-cheese pies this afternoon. As Weston stirred the sugar, cinnamon, ginger and cloves together, then went to work on the eggs and cream cheese, it reminded me of what a good life we have. And even something as simple as cooking with a kid is something to be thankful for.
The aroma of pumpkin pies baking, like that of a chicken roasting, or, for me in particular, rice steaming, just feels like home. I’m thankful to be here. So here’s to gratitude! May you all have a happy and delicious Thanksgiving.
With the FDA’s announcement yesterday that it has approved Aquabounty’s genetically modified salmon for human consumption, thought it would be worth posting this op-ed piece I wrote on the subject a few years back:
FRANKENFISH: COMING SOON TO A MARKET NEAR YOU?
In the 1950’s and 60’s, biologists and dam builders assured us that the loss of salmon runs was nothing to worry about. Hatcheries would not only mitigate fish population losses, but could provide salmon runs far beyond what nature produced. We could, in effect, create a bonanza of fish for ourselves. But like almost every instance of humans believing they could do better than Mother Nature, that optimism turned out to be nothing more than hubris. Today, we watch as the hatchery runs dwindle, taking the remnants of wild runs with them.
Twenty years ago, the international fish farming corporations told us their activities were no reason for concern; the open water net pens were a safe alternative to harvesting wild salmon. The fish are sterile, they said. Ocean currents dilute pollution. Nothing to worry about. And now, as we find juvenile Atlantic salmon in Pacific coast streams and watch wild runs ravaged by sea lice infestations, disease and effluent from the farms, the head of one of the largest Scandinavian fish farm companies finally admits what many already knew: The net pens are damaging to wild fish populations.
Which brings us to the news in last week’s New York Times, that the FDA is seriously considering approval of the first genetically engineered food animal for human consumption—a salmon that grows at twice the rate of natural salmon. A Frankenfish designed by man to—once again—outdo nature. Produced by Aquabounty Technologies, this is an Atlantic salmon with growth hormone genes from Chinook salmon and a genetic “on switch” from another species entirely, the ocean pout.
We are assured by Aquabounty that the resulting fish is “identical in every measurable way to the traditional food Atlantic salmon.” Nothing to worry about. The company also says the Federal Government has already approved 5 of the 7 data sets demonstrating the Aquabounty salmon is safe to eat and safe for the environment.
This would be the same federal government that approved British Petroleum’s deep ocean oil drilling, and apparently took the company’s word for it that adequate safety measures were in place. Both BP and the federal agency tasked with oversight believed the triple redundancy of its “blowout preventer” was so secure, they clearly had no viable plan in place should it fail. We all know the results there.
So, when the government and a corporation tell us yet again there’s nothing to worry about, that the Enbridge Pipeline won’t leak, that Pebble Mine won’t destroy Bristol Bay, or, in this case, that messing with the basic code of life on earth is not only safe, but will produce something better than Mother Nature, history offers us one piece of advice: Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Yvon said that if something happened to the building while this crew was in it, salmon would be doomed. I couldn’t agree more. For me it was an honor just to sit with these people–my heroes in wild salmon conservation–for an entire day, while plotting how Patagonia Provisions can best contribute to the effort. This is the Patagonia Provisions Wild Salmon Advisory Team.
In many ways it was a historical meeting of the minds; scientists, advocates, fishermen, authors and a commercial fish company (Provisions) working together to ensure a future for wild salmon. I can’t think of another salmon purveyor that’s ever spent this much money and effort to convene a group like this, or one that would act on their recommendations.
Back row: Nick Gayeski (Wild Fish Conservancy), Mark Kurlansky (author of Cod), Matt Stoecker (DamNation, Stoecker Ecological), Dr. Jack Stanford (Flathead Lake Biological Station), Jim Lichatowich (author of Salmon Without Rivers), Keith Carpenter (Lummi Island Wild), Aaron Hill (Watershed Watch), Bruce Hill (Skeena Wild), Lisa Pike-Sheehy (Patagonia).
Front Row: Birgit Cameron (Patagonia Provisions), James Farag (Patagonia Provisions), Jill Dumain (Patagonia), Misty MacDuffee (Rain Coast Conservation), Dr. Carol Ann Woody (Fisheries Research Consulting) , Me (blinded by the California sunshine and star power around me), Kurt Beardslee (Wild Fish Conservancy), Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia).
Heavyweights all. And with this group meeting annually, the future of wild salmon looks better and brighter. I felt lucky to be a part of it, and even luckier to call these people friends.
Well, it’s not my dad’s cooking–or his food photography–but it was a memorable meal. Thanks to the miracles of modern vac-sealing technology and the freezer, we were able to enjoy good, fresh-tasting food that was harvested at other times. Those are crispy, pan-fried razor clams on the left, with white-fronted goose and mallard breast marinated in olive oil, garlic and rosemary, then seared quickly in a hot pan, on the right. Brown and wild rice and some blanched sugar snap peas rounded it all out.
Of course, there’s been no razor clam season yet this year, due to high-levels of domoic acid on the coast–perhaps a result of the hot water “blob” off our coast. So these are from a dig the kids and I did with the Sweeney family last autumn. Almost a year old and still perfect!
The delicious white-fronted goose and mallard breasts are a gift from Smarty, shot several weeks back. Again, the vac-sealer and freezer did the trick.
I didn’t take a picture of the appetizer, but we started with ikura salmon caviar and smoked salmon–both from Willapa Bay in September–on rosemary crackers and cream cheese.
None of it as elegant as my dad’s work, but I think he was happy to have someone else do the cooking and to enjoy a taste of the Pacific Northwest. The kids and I were more than happy to provide it.