I was first introduced to the Ocean Wise™ program eight years ago, when I was invited to a Vancouver restaurant proudly showcasing its sustainable seafood menu. I sat next to Mike McDermid, the former Ocean Wise program manager and a marine biologist at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. The evening was an inspiration: with the help of McDermid, Ocean Wise staff and contributions from about 90 chefs across Canada, the first Ocean Wise cookbook was launched.
Editing the book was a huge learning curve for me. I learned that frozen can be better than fresh; that many fish farms are in fact sustainable; and little fishes like mackerel, herring and sardines really are delicious, thanks to the Ocean Wise chefs’ superb recipes.
I also understood that I was part of the sustainability problem. In the 1990s, I owned Reel Appetites, a large film catering company. We served hundreds of meals a day — farmed salmon was always on the menu — to film stars and film crews, blithely unaware of any sustainability issues. No one complained or questioned where their food came from. When I went out for dinner, I tucked into orange roughy and Chilean sea bass. You cook and eat what you know.
The first Ocean Wise cookbook was published in 2010. Although there were recipes from chefs across the country, most came from B.C. Fortunately, that is no longer the case: in the past five years many more chefs and restaurants across Canada have signed up with the Ocean Wise program, which in turn has created a much greater consumer awareness and the demand for another cookbook.
Many Canadians will confess that they’re intimidated by seafood and don’t know how to cook it properly. Typically, salmon or halibut is served overcooked at home so we go out for seafood, which explains why we have so many great seafood restaurants. Cooking fish shouldn’t be intimidating — if you can fry a piece of bacon, you can fry a fillet of fish. But you can also take it a step further. In the Ocean Wise Cookbook 2, you’ll find techniques such as sous-vide, smoking and poaching in olive oil. I did my best to give you the instructions you need to master these techniques and to simplify the recipes so that they aren’t too complicated for the home cook.
This new cookbook features 40 species of seafood, from oysters to octopus and from pink salmon to sturgeon and a few seaweed recipes (kelp is the new kale). Many chefs submitted recipes featuring seafood and fish that they sourced locally, such as P.E.I. mussels and Lake Erie pickerel. Keep in mind that one of the best conservation methods is to diversify by eating many kinds of sustainable fish.
I hope this cookbook encourages you ask your local fishmonger what’s in season, rather than shopping with a particular fish in mind.
You can pick up a copy of the Ocean Wise Cookbook 2 at the Vancouver Aquarium gift shop or online.
Happy sustainable cooking!
Blog post by Jane Mundy, freelance writer and editor. Her articles have appeared in The Globe and Mail, the National Post, the Vancouver Sun, and Western Living. She also has 20 years of experience as a professional cook.