Considering Shark's Fin as a Dish, Not Just a Cause
It's easy for people who have never eaten shark's fin to be caught up in the horror over the practice of shark finning. It's also easy for the conversation to shift from "How can we stop this dire threat to sharks and the ocean ecosystem?" to vilifying diners who were brought up learning to savor shark's fin and haven't yet made the connection between the ingredient and the destructive fishing practice at its source.
I wanted to step back and consider the issue from a purely culinary viewpoint: What does shark's fin taste like? When and why is it served? And what would it mean, from a cultural perspective, to stop serving it? Moral indignation and anger, however altruistic their source, aren't going to sell this ban to all voters. More practical questions like "How could we obtain this ingredient some other way?" or "What could we serve instead?" may be more effective.
SFoodie's coverage of AB-376 is hardly over. Like me, you can even track its progress through the state assembly by signing up for e-mail alerts. And I still haven't located a Cantonese restaurateur or chef who has stopped serving shark's fin since news of AB-376 broke. If any of you encounter one, let me know ― I'd love to talk to him or her for the blog (finding translators isn't a problem).