Brighton Food Society

Posted by Paul Williams, Chief Executive on 14 September 2012

I was recently a guest at Brighton Food Society's coastal themed dinner, where, of course, the meal was based around seafood. Brighton Food Society is a group of food writers, publishers and broadcasters who get together to cook, eat and talk the foodie talk. I was invited to say a few words about Seafish, seafood and sustainability. We ate some excellent local plaice, caught by the MSC accredited catamaran, Amadeus, that fishes out of Hastings, along with a langoustine sauce made from Scottish Nephrops. In my brief talk I focused on the issues that I thought would be of interest: where the fish came from, how it was caught, sustainable fishing practices, low discard fisheries. I also touched on the fact that we export what we catch and import what we eat, which raised a few knowledgeable nods as well as a few surprised looks. I received politely enthusiastic applause then sat down to eat and to enjoy the company of the people on my table. It was then that I realized that although what I had said was probably of genuine interest to this audience, it wasn't what was at the top of their minds.

What we talked about was fish as food. We talked about whether a strong flavoured sauce worked well with delicately flavoured white fish (for the record, the plaice/langoustine bisque combination was superb). We admired the way that the devilled crab canap├ęs had been served on a disc of crisp cucumber that balanced the heat. We talked about our favourite species of fish and shellfish and the ones we had jibbed at even tasting. We discussed meals eaten in distant countries where fish had been joined with strange ingredients in ways that were either exciting or bizarre. The tone of the conversation may have been set by the fact that I was sharing a table with a columnist and an ex-editor of the food magazine "Delicious", but I am pretty confident that similar conversations were going on all around the room.

Sometimes, the view from inside the seafood industry can be overly influenced by external pressures set by environmental groups and journalists, so that we forget that for a lot of people, including food writers, seafood is just a wonderland of flavours, textures, and rich eating experiences -not primarily a ethical debating topic. Yes, they want their seafood to be sustainable, but they look to buy from retailers who they believe will ensure that it is. Most of all they just see fish and shellfish as great food. It was good to be reminded of that.

Paul Williams, Chief Executive

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