Cod ‘n Olive Oil
An old seafood guy, long ago deceased, once told me, “Only God knows how much a fish fillet really weighs.” He was trying to educate me, teach me some of the realities of the seafood industry. It’s a complex industry; there are enormous pressures to keep prices low.
Sometimes a seafood processor will soak a product in a sodium tri-poly solution for a few hours. It helps enhance the scale weight of the finished product. Sound fishy? It is.
I had lunch recently with Gene Connors. Now in his early 70’s, Gene has spent a lifetime in and around the seafood industry. I’ve known him for thirty years or so; he has always been my go-to when I need seafood info.
In the business world, Gene had one fault …he has a passion for quality. In the business world price often trumps quality. Gene will compromise price, he won’t compromise quality.
The industry has a dilemma; it needs product now to survive and is consequently over-fishing certain species. There are thousands of species that could also be fished, but the market (you and I are the market) demands familiar species. The market also demands lower pricing …”the price is always too high” is what the industry hears.
Fish consumers have a difficult choice: how fresh is the fresh? Has it been treated with sodium tri-poly? Making it even more difficult is the fact that some not-so-scrupulous sellers will market thawed as fresh, often soaking it to give it that fresh look.
What got me into this Cod state of mind was a book on olive oil, “Extra Virginity, The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil,” by Tom Mueller (Barnes and Noble, 2011). The history of olive oil is very similar to that of cod; it goes back as far as humans have recorded history. This fruit oil (it is not vegetable oil) has not only been a food, but also been a major source of heating and lighting, a lubricant for machinery, a medicine and a body-oil with claimed aphrodisiac effects (…and I thought I knew a lot about olive oil).
Whole industries have formed to create oils, predominantly vegetable oils blended with olive oil that smell like, behave like, and even can taste like olive oil.
Much of the extra virgin olive oil on the market is blended, fake or altered. It is difficult and expensive to detect the fraudulent products.
So what’s the big deal? It smells and tastes the same and it has similar cooking properties. It is difficult to perceive a difference. The real thing, olive oil, has enormous health benefits, contains powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. The imposters don’t.
Read the whole story in the South Coast Prime Times, April-May 2012 or online at http://issuu.com/coastalmags/docs/scpt_aprmay12