Reading: Four Fish by Paul Greenberg


Screen Shot 2018-06-29 at 18.03.50I was just watching National Geographic with friends on the telly last night and there was a documentary “The History of Food” with chefs, historians, authors and anthropologists discussing the state of fish in the world over making good fish and chips.


Where do we go from here? It’s an interesting discussion that author Paul Greenburg discusses at a talk at Concordia University.

As I was teaching in my Anthropology module class at Macao’s IFT, in the 1950s, Macdonald’s came up with the Fillet O’ Fish burger as Catholics ate fish on Friday and they were losing out on market share that day of the week.

So Greenberg’s Four Fish book is an easily digestible read full of interesting nuggets on the four most common fish that makes it to the dinner table today: Salmon, Cod, Seabass and Tuna, a large quantity of what we eat today is farmed industrially since there aren’t many real wild fishes out there anymore, as we teeter on the edge of overfishing and destroying the natural order of the sea’s ecosystem.

The book explores the whole industry of farming and diseases and these main four fish that make it to the dining table across the globe. Alot of the “wild” “sustainable” buzz words are merely marketing lingo that drives sales.

I’ve learnt so much from reading this book along – everything from Tuna has muscle tissues of a mammal (!!) with its red meat unlike other fish, and how crazy powerful the bluefin tuna is as they swim from one end of oceans to the other.

I always wondered what the Chilean sea bass was, only to find out it’s just a marketing renaming of a fish with an unfortunate name that didn’t sell – the Patagonia toothfish.

Sea monkeys! Didn’t we have those “pets” as kids? Artemia is baby shrimps whose eggs can survive exterior conditions and hatched once immersed in water. They were introduced for fish farming feed (for sea bass) and sold under the name “Instant Life”. It was renamed and marketed as sea monkeys and there was a whole economy around making a landscape of garden and swings for the “sea monkeys”.

How can we tell if a fish is farmed or wild? 

  1. The liver. If it is dark in colour, it means the fish is eating a low-fat diet and probably wild.
  2.  Most fish are already gutted by the time you meet them. So you check the “otolith” which is the inner ear of the fish. Like concentric circles in a tree trunk, the number of rings is used to determine the age of the fish! And if it’s uneven, it’s wild!

I highly recommend this book – it’s filled with so much great information and so easy to read.

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