It’s been official for a good long while. Eating green — that is to say sustainably in terms of ethics and the environment — is cool. But while almost all of us know why, we don’t really know exactly what it entails. We think we do, but mostly we don’t. That’s because it’s hard. Life is busy, the messages are vague and complicated, and, most of all, we’re creatures of habit. Until the information and the options become common, eating green usually takes effort, time, and money.
Curiously, the most privileged — usually those with the most leisure time, the best access to information, and the means to walk the talk — seem slow to change eating habits. Yes, even the so-called foodies (apologies for the use of that dreadful word). You only have to check out the most popular local food blogs, restaurant menus, and Instagram posts in the vast Food-I-Ate-While-Travelling category for proof.
Perhaps it’s simply because everyone’s overwhelmed. Green overload is depressing and annoying (guilty as charged), and as one can’t fix everything, the tendency is often to ignore the whole bloody mess. So I say, just start by focusing on one thing. And if it’s one thing, then once again, I’m going to be pointing in the general direction of the sea.
Seafood is probably where we all score the lowest marks in the green arena, probably because we know so little. Few people with whom I have seafood chats (a hazard if you come close to me) are aware that eating “standard” salmon is by and large a very uncool thing to be doing.
Pretty much everything imported into our country is farmed, and unless you’re totally sure it’s backed by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), just stay clear (and actually, even with ASC, there seem to be questions).
“Normally” farmed salmon — that includes Scottish, Norwegian, the lot — are a real biodiversity threat. Their illnesses and sea lice affect wild species, their waste affects the ocean bed, and the use of antibiotics doesn’t make the picture prettier. Prawn farming often takes it to a whole other level (#wetlanddestruction), and in many instances, wild-caught prawns involve a by-catch horror story of surreal proportions.
A great green-farmed alternative is on the horizon in the form of the non-carnivorous fish tilapia (when well-farmed of course). It's already a favourite in many African countries, and I reckon it might be the fish of the future. And then our incredible Saldanha Bay mussels are just about the greenest farmed seafood you can imagine, with world-class quality.
And there’s much more: for the lowdown, there’s nothing more instantly useful than Sassi. The South African Seafood Initiative is wonderful, providing a fishMS service and the Sassi app, on which you can check up-to-date info in seconds while perusing a restaurant menu or the fishmonger fridge. And to marry your good green choices to your next dinner-party table: nothing could be better for green-marine recipes than brilliant Capetonian Daisy Jones’ wonderful cookbook Starfish. Indispensable and under-praised.