My instincts have always been strong and, for the most part, reliable. They’ve gotten me out of some tricky international traveling situations that I really had no business escaping undamaged. Many of you may ask where those instincts were when I got myself INTO said trouble. But, of course, no one’s perfect — especially the young, rash and (seemingly) indestructible.
My instincts around food have an even better record. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had cause to doubt them. So when I went down to the dock the other day to meet a fishing boat that makes periodic stops here on Pender, it didn’t occur to me for even a moment to check that my internal alarms were on and functioning.
Perhaps it was a crossed signal. Maybe I was in a dead zone (there’s a couple on our little island full of hills and trees) or, more likely, I just wasn’t listening because I knew I wasn’t going to like the answer to my question.
A friend brought me some of the boat’s Side Stripe shrimp last fall. Excited by this sustainable, locally caught seafood delivered to my door, my emotions quickly changed to dismay as I defrosted the bag of frozen-at-sea shrimp tails and found myself staring at a bag of females heavily laden with roe. There’s no way that can be sustainable.
So when I got the call that the same boat was back at the Hope Bay wharf a couple of weeks ago, I tempered my enthusiasm and resigned myself to the fact that although I would go down and check it out, it was very likely that I’d be coming home empty handed. It turns out I was wrong — or so I thought.
You may have guessed that this is the point in the story where my instinct falters. It’s true. I believed those fisherman when they told me that these weren’t the same pregnant shrimp. As I write this story, though, I’m beginning to accept that I was just a lot too willing to be duped. Sure, I asked the right questions, and because the shrimp are suspended in opaque frozen sea water, it can be difficult to tell.
But I just went and checked the 2 remaining bags in our freezer, and I can see the roe now — I suspect that I just didn’t want to see it then.
I’m disappointed in myself; I take the concepts of food sustainability and security very seriously. In the 16 months since I started this blog, Howard and I have radically changed where and how we buy food — not without a hiccup or two — I can be seen gnoshing a big juicy burger at the pub very occasionally — but we always try to make the best choice we can afford, and the Pacific Coast shrimp fishery is a very valuable resource that we need to protect. The fact of the matter is that most of the world’s oceans are emptying at an alarming rate, and the farmed tiger prawns that monopolize big-box store fish counters are some of the most unregulated, toxic protein on the planet.
I have contacted SeaChoice.org with some questions. I know I can trust THEIR answers. In the meantime, I’m making a decadent shrimp bisque from the shells and eggs, which makes me feel a little better about the whole thing.
In the good news department, it seems that my food instincts haven’t abandoned me altogether. I heard when this Sui Choy cabbage sang to me from behind the Romaine and Bok Choy. I immediately had to have it — which is strange, because I don’t often feel a bone deep need/urge to buy Chinese cabbage — cabbage of any type, really.
And I didn’t use it right way — it sat there for another 5 days, slowly making more room for itself in the vegetable drawer, as I used all the other vegetables around it. By the time inspiration finally struck, that poor cabbage was looking pretty lonely with just a couple of carrots and a withering heart of celery to keep it company.
This time, inspiration came in the form of leftover rice. Which, in the case of these cabbage rolls, is as good as any muse I’ve ever come across.
These are a delicious and light springtime update on the old winter comfort food classic. If you have time to make the Sweet Chili Sauce (or if you have a bottle in the fridge), I think you’ll agree that the mixture of that with the ponzu takes this dish from really good to spectacular.
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)