Why did we decide to do a seafood episode when we live in a landlocked province? A couple reasons, really. A popular pastime in Alberta, I, like many, grew up going camping. Well, I don’t do that anymore, but some of my most memorable stories happened on camping trips. There was that time of the emergency evacuation because of bears. They still freak me out. Getting a scratch on my face when I was on the back of a motorcycle riding through the woods and a tree branch snapped back and slashed my face. I don’t do motorcycles anymore either, but thankfully I don’t have a scar. And the most memorable was the time I caught a fish. I was probably 10 years old, and most likely did not reel it in myself, but I can very clearly remember thinking the eyes were very interesting and trying to pop them out. Before you go thinking I have some sort of latent psychotic tendency, I was fascinated by the colors of the scales, and how alive the fish still seemed although it was dead. I also remember very clearly how delicious that fish was after it was cooked in tinfoil over a campfire with a bit of lemon and some dill. So we got to chatting one day about getting good sushi in Alberta. Marc Affled, our rockstar producer and News Director at CJSW, mentioned how he had the best sushi of his life at Jasper Park Lodge one time and often wondered what it takes to get the freshest sushi to a place that is hard to get to by car let alone truck, air, or boat. Okay, so you can’t get to it by boat but you catch my drift here. Well, I have a huge affinity for seafood, Marc had the question about getting it here, and then it just evolved to wondering about the demand. And then a few years ago the east coast cod fisheries’ woes happened. Having many friends from the east coast, their industries were basically becoming depleted. So I phoned my friend Eric Geisbrecht, Calgary’s own oysterman and had a great conversation with him. He guided me into the subject suggesting I look further into it other than just Oceanwise. So who did I talk to? Well, of course I spoke with Michael McDermid from the Oceanwise program out of the Vancouver Aquarium about the program itself. Then I heard about this Salmon CSF called Skipper Otto. They started the CSF (Community Supported Fishery), which is essentially the same idea as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and as of last year expanded their membership into Alberta. That means for the cost of a membership, you can get fresh seafood caught ethically, delivered to your door. I spoke with Shaun Strobel who with his wife and his father have built this amazing idea into a reality. A reality that brings together communities who may not otherwise have access to the freshest and most ethically caught seafood. I then spoke with Executive Chef Kyle Groves at Catch Restaurant in Calgary. I know many restaurants serve seafood in the city, however, there are only a couple known for their seafood. Catch is a seafood restaurant in the middle of a farmer’s field essentially, how crazy do you have to be to put that together? Well, obviously not too crazy because it works. Catch is one of the most popoular restaurants in Calgary, and Chef Groves is as passionate about sourcing a sustainable product as he is about preparing them to be super tasty! Then finally I spoke with Brent Petkau the Oysterman of Cortes Island. I had 2 conversations with Mr. Petkau both of which lasted well over an hour. The man is so passionate about his oysters, the seafood industry and agriculture. Y’all only get to hear a fraction of what we spoke about but you can check out on youtube his 6 minute short film called The Perfect Oyster. Keep tabs on this fellow, beause he is working on some really great things.
After all this, I think I am going to plan a road trip to hopefully go and harvest some oysters on Cortes island one day. And then eat those little babies up.
November 26, 2012 Follow-Up: Well, I did go up to Cortes Island, and I did harvest some oysters. Wow, were they amazing. The oyster is such an interesting signifier of a life system. It is essentially self-sustaining, as well as environmentally friendly as it cleans oceans. It is delicious, delicate and meaty all at the same time. Adorns the tables of the rich and the poor alike. And, is one of the oldest creatures on the planet. Fascinating.