For those of us with a habit that pre-dates internet bookmarking: tearing an article from a magazine and stashing it either somewhere random or somewhere sensible — in this case, for me, the latter — my copy of Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food.

So I was easily able to find “The Ones that Got Away: A Field Guide to Rare and Extinct Varieties of Jewish Fish” when, a few weeks ago, I read a poem that recalled the writer’s immigrant Jewish grandfather and  “the fish that we called “yum yum fish”/ (What WAS it?) /A mystery lost to time.”

There’s a sad nostalgia for me, thinking of the times in my life, mostly as a child around the deaths of my mother’s thousand relatives, when the food centrepiece would be a platter piled with fish, colours of salmon-orange-pink, skin-silver-bronze, white and bone-grey with bagels, slabs of cream cheese, wedges of wet tomatoes and thinly sliced onions.  These were fatty, smokey, pickle-y delicious flavours, salty, strong, and specific to a time that to me feels past.  I can’t imagine my own children enjoying this food, and I can’t imagine a social occasion at which I’d find myself now in which it would be offered– that lot of folk has died.

Remembering the generations of people who ate this way, and the knowledge and experience they held, across cultures, is one of the ways that the Slow Food Ark of Taste enters the discourse about lost and struggling traditions, in an effort to celebrate legacies of culinary diversity, and renew them.  I’m also really pleased to see Slow Food entering the important discourse about food and climate change.

Roger Mummert wrote something truly fascinating with “The Ones that Got Away,” way back in 1993; he tied together much that is fun and foodie yet also so much about loss (of people, of foodways, of fish), beneath a humorous interview with the proprietor of a famous New York City fish delicatessen. Together they paint a beguiling and informative picture of old world food traditions within contemporary global markets and ecological overfishing. Read the rest of this entry »

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