Can A Jewish Food Conference be Lox Free?

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So, we were on a conference call the other day. When I say “we,” I mean those of us who have the gargantuan task of menu-planning for Hazon’s 2008 Food Conference.

I am chairing this committee, along with Sue Carson, one of the co-chairs of the conference.  On this call, one person casually suggested a lox and bagels brunch. Lox and bagels were served last year at the conference. No surprise, as lox and bagels are often a staple at Jewish events.

But we most likely will have a lox-less conference.

Gasp. How could we take lox off the menu? Isn’t having a conference celebrating Jewish food without bagels and lox like holding a Japanese cultural celebration without sushi?

Exactly.

It’s sad to say, but both of these are cultural practices that need to be reconsidered.

It was easy for me to change my meat-eating habits when I learned about the methods used in industrial meat lots. Laughably easy, because I don’t eat it. All I did was state that no non-organic, humanely treated meat will be allowed in my home. That’s been easy.

But this one is really troubling me. I do eat fish — lots of it. I love it, and my body loves it, too. It’s not only low in fat and full of protein and essential fatty acids, but it’s delicious. As a chef, I love cooking with it too, as the ways it can be handled are practically endless.

And I used to have a pretty regular sushi habit. In one article I read recently, one expert said that if sushi restaurants do not stop serving blue fin tuna, the species will disappear in the next five years. Which leaves me thinking about how sad it is that we may have to abandon foods that are such a part of our culture, that we’ve been eating our entire lives, because they aren’t sustainable.

Sad to say, my love affair with sushi and certain species of fish is ending. Because the facts are this: ninety percent of all salmon eaten in the United States is farmed. This includes sushi restaurants. And, equally sad for the Jews: this includes smoked salmon.

Farmed salmon is bad for a number of reasons, mainly for the amount of antibiotics and other additives they are fed. More reasons about the environmental ramifications are mentioned in this recent op-ed piece in the New York Times.

In California, where I live, and where the conference will be held, we are also dealing with the fact that for the first time, salmon fishing season was canceled this year.

Wild salmon will still be available, but the question is at what price. Sure, we could still have lox at the conference, but to ensure that it’s wild caught, how much are we willing to pay for it?

I’m beginning to think that at the conference we may just have to have lox-less bagels, or, perhaps, no bagels at all.

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5 Responses to “Can A Jewish Food Conference be Lox Free?”

  1. Laura Frankel Says:

    Alix, We are meat venue here at Wolfgang Puck Catering. I use a Wild Smoked Salmon product and make “SALMON SHMEAR”.
    4 ounces Wild Alaskan Smoked Salmon, chopped
    2 tablespoons chopped red onions
    1/4 cup aioli
    2 tablespoons chopped chives
    1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
    1 tablespoon creamy horseradish
    1/4 crushed wasabi peas
    1. combine all of the above together and add more wasabi peas for crunch.
    Sever with sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, sliced red onions and chiffonaded romaine lettuce

    No Need for cream cheese!
    Every brunch I do has this dish on the menu by request.
    Serve with mini bagels to “stretch” your product

    Best, Laura

  2. alix Says:

    That sounds delicious, Laura, thanks for the suggestion. I will discuss it with the chefs at Asilomar next month!

  3. Brenda Berry Says:

    Alix,
    I’m so happy that you confronted this issue and I’m hoping that the “salmon Shmear” will alert folks at the food conference to the sustainability issues around fish. Today at my local fish store in NY, wild Alaskan salmon was $35.00 per pound. Basically unaffordable. That’s why Michael Pollan’s prescription “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” is the way to go. Hummus and bagels sounds good to me.
    One of the guides to safe and sustainable fish is available at http://www.blueocean.org/seafood/

  4. phyllis Says:

    i read that op-ed piece too and it does make me question many of our food choices as a jewish community….thanks for this great post.

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