Author Barton Seaver, who's spent a whirlwind week in Seattle promoting his latest book on sustainable seafood, believes every Fourth of July celebration should feature domestic farm-raised shellfish.
"It's our patriotic duty to eat farm-raised mussels, clams and oysters," says Seaver, citing the economic, environmental, and health benefits of shellfish such as the Totten Inlet oysters he plucked off a Taylor Shellfish-owned beach yesterday.
"A dozen oysters, a six-pack of beer, and a bottle of Tabasco is the most patriotic thing I can think of," he adds.
Seaver's prescription is the only sustainable seafood shorthand the D.C.-based chef feels comfortable endorsing. He rejects attempts to reduce the sustainable-seafood message to "eat lower on the food chain" or "eat local" as overly simplistic. "You and I could rent a canoe and harpoon a blue whale," Seaver says. "Just because it's local, that doesn't mean it's a good idea."
To help consumers sort through complex seafood choices, Seaver recently helped develop an online "Seafood Decision Guide," released by National Geographic. The program isn't intended to displace the Monterey Bay Aquarium's popular Seafood Watch guide, but was designed to aggregate information about various underwater species' toxicity and health benefits, as well as sustainability.
"It acknowledges we choose our seafood based on myriad issues," Seaver says.
Seaver would rather emphasize the nuances of seafood decision-making than consign certain species to a yellow ("good alternative") or red ("avoid") list. "The purpose of dialogue is to change the fate of species on yellow and red lists," Seaver says.
In some instances, if a red-listed fish is harvested in a responsible way, consumers should "incentivize" that behavior by purchasing the product, he explains. "There is no reducible theory of sustainability," Seaver says. "There is no silver bullet. The only black and white is farm-raised mussels, clams, and oysters."
Seaver will discuss his book, For Cod and Country, tonight at University Book Store. The program begins at 7 p.m.