This week's review is actually not a review, though it involved a little professional eating. It's more of an essay, inspired by the brouhaha that emerged over the introduction of AB-376, Paul Fong and Jared Huffman's bill to ban the sale and import of shark's fin in California.
It's easy for people who have never eaten shark's fin to be caught up in the horror over the practice of shark finning. It's also easy for the conversation to shift from "How can we stop this dire threat to sharks and the ocean ecosystem?" to vilifying diners who were brought up learning to savor shark's fin and haven't yet made the connection between the ingredient and the destructive fishing practice at its source.
I wanted to step back and consider the issue from a purely culinary
viewpoint: What does shark's fin taste like? When and why is it served?
And what would it mean, from a cultural perspective, to stop serving it?
Moral indignation and anger, however altruistic their source, aren't
going to sell this ban to all voters. More practical questions like "How
could we obtain this ingredient some other way?" or "What could we
serve instead?" may be more effective.
SFoodie's coverage of AB-376 is hardly over. Like me, you can even track its progress through the state assembly by signing up for e-mail alerts.
And I still haven't located a Cantonese restaurateur or chef who has
stopped serving shark's fin since news of AB-376 broke. If any of you
encounter one, let me know ― I'd love to talk to him or her for the blog (finding translators isn't a problem).