According to FAO, 47 percent of all the world’s fish species are ‘fully exploited’, 18 percent are ‘over-exploiteded and 10% are fished out. This means that if fishing methods aren’t changed radically and fast, 75 percent of the world’s fish stocks risk disappearing.
This is why SlowArk has decided to go down to the sea again to speak about a fish – the cod – that has been an outstanding source of protein for people the world over for millennia.
The American journalists Bill McKibben and Alan Christopher Finlayson describe the dramatic case of Canada, whose once multitudinous cod reserves incredibly dried up in 1992. Since then 30,000 fishermen have lost their jobs, and even after the moratorium cod have failed to return to Canadian waters, where they have been replaced by other predators, such as haddock and seals.
The magazine also features contributions from Iceland, Norway (the two most important cod-fishing countries), Spain and Portugal, with information about the different gastronomic traditions from fish and chips to bacalao a la vizcaina.
The second topic we address in this number is another firm favorite on tables the world over: chicken.
No other agribusiness sector is so industrialized. The average chicken battery farm houses 200,000 birds, while multinationals select hybrids and check the raw materials for feed. Bloated on a diet of fats, the chickens are ready for slaughter bloated in just over 30 days, and hens lay 300 eggs a year, double the figure of 20 years ago.
Eric Schlosser, author of the bestseller Fast Food Nation, speaks about the situation in the United States, designing the ‘McDonald’s chicken’, exposing the sorry fate of breeders, and recording the mindboggling list of the ingredients it takes to make the omnipresent McNugget.
We also present a possible alternative in the form of the Presidia Slow Food has set up to safeguard and promote the Piedmontese hen, the Valdarno chicken, the Morozzo capon and the Padovana hen. Albeit small in scale, these projects, help save autocthonous breeds and ancient traditions, allowing chickens to scratch around in the fields, to recognize the seasons – not to mention the difference between day and night – growing normally and, if all goes well, slowly.
We also feature the Slow Food Manna Presidium, dedicated to the old-fashioned sweetener extracted from the bark of frassini in the Madonie mountains in northern Sicily. Two international projects then take us to Ireland, where a Presidium is defending the last four producers to smoke wild salmon using totally natural methods, and Mexico – more precisely, to the state of Chiapas, stronghold of sub-commandant Marcos – where some native communities are working with Slow Food to recover ancient corn varieties (a staple in the local diet).
Number 32 of SlowArk closes as always with a tour of a park. This time we’ve chosen the Lake District, in north-west England, close to the border with Scotland. This picturesque district of fells, lakes, dry stone walls and farmstead is interesting in terms of both its gastronomy (rum butter, Kendal mint cake, gingerbread) and its biodiversity (here they breed the Herdwick sheep, important for its meat and wool).
Serena Milano, a journalist, is the editor of SlowArk
Adapted by John Irving