Becky Selengut Teaches How to Pick and Cook Good Fish

Categories: Books, Events
Becky Selengut, a cooking teacher and food writer based in Seattle, is coming to San Francisco this weekend to speak about and cook from her new book, Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Seafood Coast.

On Saturday morning, she will be doing a cooking demo at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Then at 3 p.m., she will read at Omnivore Books. On Sunday, she teaches a sustainable-seafood cooking class at 18 Reasons ($25 for members, $35 for nonmembers). SFoodie spoke to her today about sustainable Pacific Coast seafood:

SFoodie: How different are the sustainable seafood choices we find in California from the Pacific Northwest, where you live?

Pretty darn similar. I feel like this book is applicable up and down the West Coast. In Santa Monica last week, for example, I found spot prawns from Santa Barbara, for instance, instead of Alaska, but I saw all the same species I talk about in the book: halibut, squid, sardines, char.

Given the recent stories that have appeared about mislabeled seafood, how do you recommend people make sure they're buying the right fish?

Compare it to produce, people. If you go to a Wal-Mart and buy an apple, it's hard to know where it came from. If you buy an apple from an apple grower at the farmers' market, you can be damn certain that the farmer or his or her assistant picked it. Cut out as many middlemen as you can, and go to well-respected retailers, family businesses with a track record of success, or a grocery store that prides itself on transparency. The gold standard for truth in labeling is the Marine Stewardship Council, a certification body that tracks fish from boat to plate.

What I tell people who are so overwhelmed by all the information around sustainability is to do just one thing: Buy domestic fish. With one exception -- farmed salmon -- if they stick to buying domestic, they avoid the major problems: the imported shrimp from Asia, the problems with Chinese fish farms, the overfishing.

There's no need for us to be getting farmed fish from other countries. We learn something in one area -- produce -- and forget it when it comes to seafood. Squid is a great example. In Monterey, when I was speaking at the aquarium, I was staring out at the ocean, where there are a gabillion squid. (That's a scientific measurement, by the way. A gabillion.) The fishing boats gather the squid and send it all to China for processing. Then it gets sent right back. With produce, that wouldn't make any sense. The processors may save pennies on the dollar by sending California squid to China, but from an environmental perspective, it's a disaster.

Selengut has also filmed 15 instructional videos, all linked on her website. Here she demonstrates how to gut and clean Pacific squid:

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