Scallops, those marshmallows of the sea, are one of my favorite foods–soft, pleasantly fibrous, slightly sweet with the barest hint of fishiness.
I often order them broiled at the neighborhood $12-entree restaurant. I also buy them frozen, in plastic bags, at the supermarket. I like to shake a few of them into a marinara sauce, or into a bechamel which I then stir into a casserole with spinach or broccoli and pasta. No fat, no salt, no bones. Who can argue with a scallop?
I usually approach the supermarket\’s fish department with caution. Just because it\’s fish doesn\’t mean it\’s good for you or for the planet. For years I served my family big hunks of pink, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth salmon, bursting with protein and omega-3 oils, and affordable to boot. Then I learned that the pinkness was due to injected dye, and the affordability was due to fish-farming practices that fatten salmon on toxic swill and destroy natural coastlines.
I took farm-raised salmon (and tilapia, catfish, etc.) off the menu, and saved up for occasional spartan servings of $12 lb. wild-caught fish. I also spurned wild-caught fish from other hemispheres, envisioning the hurt looks on the ruddy faces of our local purveyors of pastured pork if they saw me buying swordfish from Ecuador or flounder from New Zealand.
With my seafood options thus severely restricted, scallops seemed pretty harmless, lying white and faceless in their transparent bag. Probably frozen at sea, too, and therefore fresh. Wonderfully adaptable to so many dishes, and perfect (pour exactly what you need out of the bag) for the modest requirements of a household of two.
Imagine my horror this evening when, slashing open a brand-new bag of scallops in preparation for dinner, I happened to see in small print, on the label, \”farm-raised product of China.\”
I had nothing else that I could put on the table on short notice, so into the tomato, green pepper and garlic sauce went the industrially-farmed Chinese scallops and their retinue of stowaway life forms, the whole served on a substratum of brown rice. They were delicious, those scallops, sweet with the taste of all things that must come to an end.
As someone who grew up eating a different species of seafood–freshly caught from the still pristine Mediterranean–almost every day of the week, I find saying goodbye to scallops sad. In my dark moments I imagine a future when, between dietary dictates and ecological concerns, cheese, then wheat, corn, coffee, eggs, rice and even olive oil will be banished from my diet, and I will be reduced to eating only my own home-grown chard, hold the salt and butter.