Here’s a riddle for you. What sounds like a dog but smells like a fish? Well it’s the Scarborough Woof so named because it’s got four legs, is covered in hair and digs holes in the beach. Actually, I made up those last three bits. But there is definitely a fish colloquially known as the Scarborough Woof. However, internationally it’s known as the Seawolf. Or there again it’s called a Scotch Halibut or perhaps a Wolfish or maybe an Atlantic Catfish or even a Wolf Eel. It’s known as all of these and some other names too which is pretty confusing. And it’s a fish that we have on our menu at Oldfields at present because it’s very tasty and, we’ve been reliably informed, it’s sustainable. Or not, depending on what you read and who you talk to. This is a very confusing subject.
For instance, you can download a list of sustainable fish from the Marine Conservation Society who also provide their MCS logo for use on displays of sustainable fish. But, then again, Greenpeace doesn’t currently endorse the Marine Conservation Society and even recommends that we should eat less fish; especially of the non-farmed variety. And Scarborough Woof, or any of its derivations, isn’t even mentioned by the MCS on the list I’ve got. We’re all probably aware that we shouldn’t be eating locally-caught Atlantic Cod but we’re also being told by the health police that we should be eating more fish. But which ones?
It’s very worthy and important that we know which fish we shouldn’t eat because, apart from the obvious moral concerns of deliberately removing a species from the planet, it’s surely self-defeating to force a natural resource into non-existence. But despite all the information technology available to us these days, it’s not easy to figure out what you should buy and eat and what you shouldn’t.
It was confusing enough when we were told that prawns contained cholesterol and that a pink cocktail could give you a heart attack before then being informed that, actually, the cholesterol contained within was the good sort so you could stuff ourselves full of them. But actually not too many because it seems they also contain traces of arsenic so, if you eat a bucketful you’ll poison yourself. Or explode.
Whatever. It’s all as clear as the mud at the bottom of the estuary. At Oldfields we’re trying hard to only choose fish that we know is not being depleted. So we put Coley and Pollack and Gurnard and mussels and mackerel and squid on the menu. But it’s apparent that they’re a new food to many people as the questions come thick and fast. They’re almost always greeted with surprised delight once eaten but if people find them new in a restaurant, it’s doubtful they’ll try and cook them themselves at home.
It’s enough of an uphill struggle to get people eating fish as it is, never mind introducing new ones that they’ve never heard of. Particularly if we’ve got half a dozen choices of what to call each one.
Maybe we should ask the European bureaucrats to come up with a simplified naming system. But, thinking about it, maybe not. After all, it was partly their meddling that got us into this over-fishing malarkey in the first place.