Friday, March 4, 2016

Slow Fish goes to college!

by Spencer Montgomery
This is one in a series of stories from some of the people attending Slow Fish 2016.

There's less than a week to go until we're all together in New Orleans for Slow Fish 2016: Gateway to the Americas! I'll be road trippin' it down in a 12-passenger van, with seats still available, in case there are any last-minute takers!

If you can't make it to Slow Fish this year, then please consider making a last-minute donation to our crowd-sourcing campaign to help cover the registration cost of a fisherman to attend.
Slow Fish has become a central theme of my life. So much so that I am now working as a part-time, commercial hand gear fisherman on the F/V Finlander out of Eliot, ME.

For me, it began a couple years ago, when I distributed surveys to 44 members of our local campus Slow Food chapter at the University of New Hampshire. The survey's purpose was to help guide our efforts as a group, since we had grown so quickly. Surprisingly, more than half of the students expressed a strong interest in learning more about 'seafood sustainability'.

I realized that I knew nothing of the subject.

Together with my peers, I began exploring what it meant to be a sustainable eater in the realm of seafood. I reached out to gain perspective from local fishermen, chefs, professors and community organizations. Eventually, I discovered the Slow Fish campaign and was hooked!

Our group decided to host a Slow Fish Workshop and a Seafood Throwdown to begin exploring the seasonality and biodiversity of fish as food. 

Working with local fishermen, we were able to procure seven different species of fish for the workshop. These included beautiful, whole specimens of monkfish, white hake, Acadian redfish, winter flounder, whiting, Atlantic pollock, and dogfish.

Twenty eager students showed up, ready to learn how to fillet and cook with each of the species. We crafted everything from monkfish stew to dogfish ceviche. We even used leftover fish heads and bones to make culinary stocks. Our workshop was even featured on tv! Click here to watch.

Moving Markets

Given its hands on approach, our Slow Fish Workshop served as a gateway for us to learn more about 'sustainable seafood'. We were hungry for more. Within one semester, our Slow Food group collaborated with the University to get more than 2,000 pounds of local seafood into our dining halls! Read about the case study here.

The Slow Fish Workshop was a huge success at UNH and the concept has since spread to four other U.S. States, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, and even Vermont! Each workshop's story is wholly unique, given its local watershed and the fishing community it serves to embrace.

So, feast your eyes my friends! Slow Fish is going to college!


Led by Margaret Wittier-Ferguson, students at Northeastern University partnered with a local community supported fishery (CSF), Cape Ann Fresh Catch, to source the freshest Atlantic pollock for their Slow Fish Workshop! Over 15 students had their first experience butchering a whole fish.

Whole fish food culture

Whole animal utilization is a core concept of Slow Fish. As consumers, our ability to accept whole fish can greatly enhance the success of CSFs and other forms of direct marketing. Plus, there's great value in cooking with the whole animal! (i.e. you get fresh fish collars, and leftover fish heads & bones can make delicious fish stocks for risotto, bouillabaisse, ètouffèe, gumbo, grits & more!)


At the University of Rhode Island (URI), student leaders, Kayleigh Hill and Emily Desrochers, hosted a Slow Fish workshop to increase their community's appetite for locally-abundant, underutilized and invasive species of seafood.

Students partnered with Sarah Schumann, a Rhode Island commercial shellfish harvester and president of Eating with the Ecosystem, to source periwinkles (Littorina littorea) and invasive green crabs (Carcinus maenas) for the workshop. Green crabs are quickly destroying native shellfish beds from Cape Ann to Nova Scotia. One green crab can devour 40 small clams and 30 oysters, in a single day! Green crabs are also notorious for mowing down vital eelgrass beds, which provide crucial habitat for species like the Nantucket bay scallop.

The solution? If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em!

Eating with the Ecosystem

Biodiversity is an essential ingredient for eating with the ecosystem, which requires a balanced selection of seafood from all trophic levels.

Silver hake (Merluccius bilinearis) and Atlantic butterfish (Peprilus triacanthus) were among other species at the URI workshop. Students filleted the hake and used it to make ceviche with rhubarb, lemon & pink peppercorn. You can read more here.

"It's my hope that this workshop will spark interest in getting RI-cuaght seafood into our dining halls at URI" says Kayleigh Hill.

Last Man Fishing

Students at URI were also joined by J.D. Schuyler, director of the upcoming documentary Last Man Fishing. J.D. and film producer, Kelley Jordan will both be attending Slow Fish in New Orleans. For a glimpse of their work, check out this short video they made about the Slow Fish Workshop at URI.


Student leader, Marlene Nuart, organized a Slow Fish workshop at the College of the Atlantic.

At the workshop, students heard real-time stories of indigenous food sovereignty struggles from Vera Francis of the Passamaquoddy tribe. Here's an article that highlights the importance of the indigenous oversight of marine resources in Maine.

Students collaborated with Paul Molyneaux, journalist and fisherman, to procure species native to Down East Maine. The menu included fresh, whole smelts and "bloaters". "Bloaters", traditional to the area, refer to whole, cold-smoked alewives. The preparation involves alewives that have been salted and lightly-smoked with the guts still intact to yield a unique, gamey flavor.

Once the meal was composed, everyone gathered around a big dinner table that directly overlooked the Atlantic Ocean.


What does a vibrant seafood culture look like for land-locked territories?

Most recently, the Slow Fish campaign docked at the University of Vermont. At the helm, student leaders, Olivia Percoco and Katharine Nash, sourced invasive marine species while also working to shift the perception & culture around eating fresh-water species from Lake Champlain.

Incredibly, UVM students were able to procure 10 different species from the Gulf of Maine and Lake Champlain!

Local Burlington chef, Doug Paine, has been using his menu to transform the lingering stigma around eating fish from Lake Champlain. For the Slow Fish Workshop, he donated several fresh-water species, including: rock bass, yellow perch, pumpkinseed, and blue gills.

Students also sourced native & invasive crabs from Wells Harbor, Maine, including: Jonah crabs, rock crabs, and invasive European green crabs. The crabs were submerged in boiling water and melded with aromatics to produce a flavorful crab stock - which became a central component of the students' crab risotto.

Offshore offerings included Atlantic pollock and mackerel, which students procured directly from Eliot, Maine fisherman, Tim Rider of the F/V Finlander.

Know Your Fisherman

Nationwide, farmers' markets serve as platforms for local producers. We can go and shake the hand of the person who grew our tomatoes. We can ask a farmer where and how they produced our honey. Farmers have become local celebrities (and for very good reason!)

But, for fishermen, similar infrastructure fails to exist.

The Slow Fish campaign seeks to build a similar culture of support for fishermen. By procuring fish directly from community-based fishermen, we can better discern our role as co-producers of the seafood we eat.

See you in New Orleans!

I am excited to share more Slow Fish stories with you in New Orleans! Watershed storytelling will be a central theme of Slow Fish 2016: Gateway to the Americas, given its potential for galvanizing relationships and honing our narrative. 

JOIN our Facebook Event Page.
SUPPORT our Indiegogo fundraising campaign.

HOST a Fisher-Chef Alliance dinner.

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