True cost of our favourite foods?

Last updated 09:50 23/09/2010

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Where there's smoke, there's fire.

To enter into the blue cod fishing debate is like taking a bath – the tub is half full and the water is getting a little hot. Some people like it hot, others are waiting for the temperature to cool down a little before testing it again.

We have polarised our community over the right to fish versus the sustainability of a fishery. The very reason that we take too much has led to laws and bylaws that limit the catch of a species we like so much.

To understand the story, we have to look back a little further. If we continue targeting and taking all the good stuff, there will be a time when there is not enough.

Mankind is guilty of doing this with many things – we treat the beef fillet as the best part of the animal, yet it accounts for only 1 per cent of the total meat on a cattle beast. We hold it in the highest regard, and it costs more than any other cut of meat, yet it is not as flavoursome or tasty as other cuts – but it is quick and easy to cook. We can farm more cattle beasts to meet the demand, or we can increase prices to slow the demand.

With certain types of fish, we seem to be more interested in how quick and easy it is to cook rather than what it actually tastes like. International chefs and hospitality industries are guilty of overusing Antarctic toothfish (also known as sea bass, Chilean sea bass, Antarctic or Australian sea bass), as it is quick and easy protein. It is pure white, goes well with whatever you throw at it, and is hard to overcook. Yet it has little taste.

There are many species of fish in the ocean, and many of them are regarded as second best because they have more bones or the flesh is not the perfect colour. This is a hunters' and gatherers' problem, not Mother Nature's. We simply cannot farm more to meet demand.

We need to ask where our food has come from, what effects it has on the other things around us, and the long-term outcomes of not reacting soon enough. There is a need to be strong enough to make sound and decisive decisions based on facts, not emotions or hearsay and misrepresentations – we only need to look at overseas examples to see how not to do it.


By gently curing and then smoking the fillets of whitefish, you create a satisfying and tasty meal that can be enjoyed any time of the day with crusty bread.

3kg fish fillets, sustainably fished, ie blue moki, butterfish, mullet, kahawai.

600ml water

1 cup sea salt

2 Tbsp sugar

Zest and juice of one lemon

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2 cups wood chips, soaked for 30 minutess and drained

Smoker or hooded BBQ

Mix the water, salt, sugar and zest together. Submerge the fish pieces in the brine and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the brine and pat dry. Place on a smoking rack and smoke over a low heat for 20-40 minutes or until cooked and translucent. Serve with crusty bread and garlic mayonnaise.

- The Marlborough Express


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