The Long Goodbye


A decade ago, food books were relentlessly upbeat. But in the last few years we've seen a rash of gloom-and-doom volumes that cast a decidedly different light on what we eat. Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and Greg Critser's Fat Land suggest that the American diet is slowly killing us. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan depressingly describes how the chemical-driven maize monoculture has destroyed the American farm and turned us into corn-sucking serfs, while Barry Glassner's The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know About Food Is Wrong dispels some of our most closely held notions about the wonderfulness of being a foodie.

salted cod fish

Seafood may be the bleakest topic of all. Mark Kurlansky's Cod details the near-extermination of America's favorite fish and Charles Clover's End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat chronicles how over-fishing is endangering the majority of ocean fish. Clover's research suggests that when you step up to the sushi bar ten years from now, you won't find much that isn't farm-raised.

He also debunks some recent disinformation about cod, which had supposedly undergone resurgence after recent conservation measures. As it turns out, due to a phenomenon called bunching, the last remains of the species have been huddling together in small tight concentrations, making it easier for fishermen equipped with the latest electronic devices to track them. The fishermen then report increased catches even though the population is actually dwindling.

Convinced something had to be done, a group of friends and I decided to throw a dinner party and call it "A Farewell to Cod." We wanted to reverently serve cod one last time, and then pledge to no longer eat it in restaurants or buy it in stores. The dinner party was anything but a somber affair. I decided to use the fish's most honored form, salt cod, and managed to find a package redundantly ensconced in the freezer case of my supermarket. From it, I whipped up a South African cod-and-potato casserole called Gesmoorde Vis that I found in one of the Time-Life Foods of the World books from 1970. I also used an out-of-print Haitian cookbook by Marcelle Desinor called, appropriately enough, Haitian Cookbook to create some delicious cod fritters. We also enjoyed several salads, and washed everything down with innumerable glasses of red and white wine.

"A Farewell to Cod" was a gala affair that lasted late into the evening as we saluted the noble fish one last time. Now let's see if we can keep our pledge.

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