Editor's note: Next year, the Southern Foodways Alliance will explore inclusion and exclusion at the Southern table in 2014. This theme is two-fold. It marks the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Southern restaurants. It also challenges us to take an honest look at ourselves today - for the sake of tomorrow. Who is included? Who is excluded? For the Southern table, what are the implications of obesity? Class, nationality, and sexuality? These are critical issues to ponder. Sustainable South hopes to draw your attention to agricultural groups tackling inclusion and exclusion from the field. Today's contributor is Emilie Dayan, a SFA project manager who blogs weekly about issues of nutrition, sustainability, and food policy in the South.
The VEGGI Farmer’s Cooperative challenges head-on problems of inclusion and exclusion in New Orleans, Louisiana. The cooperative, established following the effects of the BP oil spill on the Vietnamese community in New Orleans East, aims to provide the highest quality local produce and seafood to Crescent City and beyond.
The story of this community goes back to 1975 when, after the fall of Saigon, the Archdiocese of New Orleans invited many of the Christian Vietnamese who supported the U.S.-allied government to seek asylum in Louisiana. There, the Vietnamese found a familiar climate and jobs as fishermen, a trade many had practiced in Vietnam.
On his dock along the banks of Bayou Yscloskey, Darren Stander makes the pelicans dance.
More than a dozen of the birds have landed or hopped onto the dock, where Stander takes in crabs and oysters from the fishermen who work the bayou and Lake Borgne at its mouth. The pelicans rock back and forth, beaks rising and falling, as he waves a bait fish over their heads.
At least he's got some company. There's not much else going on at his dock these days. There used to be two or three people working with him; now he's alone. The catch that's coming in is light, particularly for crabs.
"Guys running five or six hundred traps are coming in with two to three boxes, if that," said Stander, 26.
Shellfish, displayed on ice in wire baskets, are the main attraction at Seattle’s Walrus & Carpenter, where the shucking of Pacific oysters is itself a work of art.
Such dedication to the finest local ingredients unites the best seafood restaurants across the globe, where what’s fresh is what’s for dinner. From spaghetti with sea urchin on the Amalfi Coast to crabmeat roasted over a fire in a coconut husk on the Thai island of Koh Samui, we hauled in a mouthwatering variety of fish as part of Travel + Leisure’s 100 Places to Eat Like a Local.
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Out of the 1,215 samples tested by ocean conservation group Oceana, 401 were determined to be mislabeled.
Amid the seafood sleuthing, Wayne Samiere says consumer knowledge is power. Samiere is the founder and CEO of Honolulu Fish Company and a trained marine biologist; he has also worked for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
"Information about various types of seafood is not as familiar to consumers as the basic facts about beef, chicken and pork," Samiere said. "Reputable seafood vendors make an effort to educate their customers about products they are selling. However, there are vendors who want to label their seafood products with a name that consumers know and find appealing."
With a few easy tricks, Samiere says you can feel empowered to avoid the old “bait and switch” problem next time you visit your local seafood counter or restaurant.
Five Ways to Knowledgeably Buy Seafood: Wayne Samiere