Blogs by Ev McTaggart
I See the Light
10/3/2008 11:14:57 AM
....but I wish the scales were still on my eyes
I’m one of those people who still believe in Shangri-La, the perfect world, utopia. Yeah, one of those. I’m the seven-year-old who confronted her third-grade teacher with a charge of playing favourites. (I started school early.) I’m the teenager who accused her father of keeping her from dating because he wanted what was best for him not her. Uh huh. That girl.
In my mind, the problem of high school violence can be eradicated if schools get rid of fast foods (and their high sugar/high caffeine content) and plant gardens, requiring the students to tend, harvest and sell their crops.
Investment in street level arts programs (dance, drawing, painting, theatre, music) can save inner city neighbourhoods from the worst ravages of poverty and ennui.
We can rescue the planet by composting organic matter, recycling cans and bottles, bringing our tote bags to the supermarket, curtailing our water consumption, cutting out unnatural fertilizers, eating less processed and less-processed food, wearing a sweater while keeping the thermostat lower, cracking down on air and water polluters, turning off the stove top burners a few moments before the food is ready.
In many people’s minds, I am 100% crazy—an idealist in a far from ideal world.
“You can’t change the world all by yourself,” a man named Fred told me in Tehran in 1976. A hair short of thirty and staunchly feminist at the time, I listened to Fred (a male chauvinist piglet, if ever there was one) taunt me about the chances of women achieving equality with men in the workplace. “Besides, how can you expect to effect change in women’s conditions when all you educated, high on your horse feminists are not having children you can educate to your way of thinking?” Well, Mathatma Gandhi said it best: You must be the change you want to see in the world. I’m not sure it’s coincidental that I became pregnant with my son shortly after this conversation. But may I say, I now have two (grown up) colour-blind, equal opportunity-oriented children?
The fact is, I HAD helped change the world—my world—
years before. When I went to work at the newly formed public relations and marketing department of Newfoundland Telephone (St. John’s) in 1970, I was the first female university graduate the company had ever hired. I was hired as frst level management. The other first level manager in my department was a chap who I’m not even sure had fnished high school. I had two Bachelor’s degrees. One of my first jobs was writing the new company president’s televised Christmas address and squiring the Montreal native to the TV station. Did I bend his ear on women’s rights? I’m afraid so. Was I particularly tactful? Knowing me at the time, probably not. I recall myself as being two small notches below strident!
Every Friday, my boss, his boss (the department head) and I held down a table at the local press club—sharing an informal beer after work while we discussed what had gone great or not so during the week, made plans for the next week and at all times, cemented our ties to the radio talk show hosts, the television producers, the newspaper people—the guys (always guys) who could hold Newfoundland Telephone’s good name in their quirky hands. Did I lecture the department head about equal pay for equal work? Undoubtedly. Luckily he agreed.
Nearly a year after my hiring, on one of those Friday press club evenings, my department head told me that as of next pay period, I would be making the same money as Leo, the other first level manager. Be the change………
I guess you could say I have always tried to live by the courage of my convictions. When one of my Newfoundland Telephone co-workers (who happened to be a third-level manager) joked about the downfall of a department head, I told him he should be ashamed of himself. He was taken aback, but immediately responded, “Sorry, you’re absolutely right.” When Fred, the piglet (who was also my husband’s boss and a champion drinker), criticized Iran, Iranians and Iranian food in front of our Iranian hosts at a dinner party, I told him in no uncertain terms that if he liked nothing about the country except his big fat ex-patriate British paycheck, he should leave. He backed down and apologized.
I lived by the courage of my convictions even when it hurt my tastsebuds and my pocketbook. When Nestlé convinced third-world mothers to stop breast feeding and start feeding their babies Nestlé formula (which they eventually couldn’t afford and watered down so badly their children became malnourished), I boycotted Nestlé’s products despite my semi-addiction to a few of their products. Until the then-South Africa demolished apartheid, I wouldn’t drink or serve South African wines, even though they were generally better than most other wines I could afford at the time. Since Mel Gibson (one of my favourite actors) unveiled his true racist character, I have refused to watch his movies on TV or at the cinema. My man says I’m nuts; why should Mel Gibson worry about whether little ol’ Evvie turns thumbs down on his latest endeavour? I say I’m doing my bit and if enough little ol’ Evvies (or youg Marys or middle-aged Suzannes) turn thumbs down on stuff, the world changes.
I must admit, though, that there’s one world problem that’s severely testing my idealist outlook: Fish.
Anyone who knows me, understands that I could happily eat fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Seven days a week, 365 days a year. My idea of food heaven is going home to Newfoundland where my dad (before he died a few years ago) would have fresh lobster, crab, shrimps, cod (fresh, salted and sometimes, corned), halibut and lake trout. I would eat boiled salt cod for breakfast, pan fry some fresh cod for lunch with sliced potatoes, and shell mountains of King crab for dinner. If I felt like a mid-afternoon snack, my cousin would drag a few dozen scallops, clean them for me, and I’d saute them in lemon garlic butter, or I’d rustle up a pot of mussels in a wine and vegetable broth. I’d fly back to Toronto feeling as if I’d worshipped at the ultimate altar of fine food.
About twenty years ago, into my fish-loving, transplanted-Newfie Ontario life swam two very delicious specimens: orange roughy and sea bass. Well, OK, they probably arrived by refrigerated truck.
I first discovered orange roughy at Tony’s Fish Market in St. Catharines, around 1988. They were out of Atlantic cod; the server suggested I try orange roughy. Huh! Even when I found out how many grams of fat that fabulous fishie packs per kilo, I didn’t give up the (guilty) pleasure. Take that fish and cut it into two-inch chunks; combine it with a sautéed mixture of sliced onions (or leeks), sliced fennel, lemon juice and zest, a chiffonade of fresh sage and a spoonful of capers and their juice; and chuck the works into a hot oven en papillote. After you try this, I dare you to say you don’t like fish.
I made sea bass’s acquaintance a couple of years later, introduced by a restaurateur friend. God, grant me tastebuds, that fish was splendid! If you haven’t eaten sea bass, lightly browned in butter, sprinkled with salt and white pepper, then served with a simple sauce of lemon, soya, shredded fresh ginger and sliced scallions, accompanied by a few perfect steamed snow peas and a warm concassé of freshly picked field tomatoes, you have never tasted heaven.
See how lyrical I can wax over the bounties of the sea?
Imagine you are the world’s most ingrained chocoholic. Mmmmmmm. Now imagine that overnight, chocolate landed up on the endangered species list. How would you get through PMS? That’s roughly how I felt when I heard the news about orange roughy and sea bass.
I work for a charitable foundation that makes grants to (among
othersconservation groups, so I usually get all the latest conservation news long
before the media catches on. The David Suzuki Foundation broke the sad tale.
They sent me a wallet-sized Seafood Watch guide to sustainable seafood. The
guide lists the world’s seafood under “Best Choices” (fish that aren’t
endangered), “Good Alternatives” (fish that aren’t yet in trouble, but could be
watched closely); and “Avoid”. I read from the bottom up. Oh dear God.
Orange roughy is halfway down the list. Owww.! Seventh down is Atlantic cod,
on top of Atlantic halibut, with Atlantic flounders and soles nipping at its tail.
There’s that sword going through my heart. Chilean sea bass tops the “Avoid”
list! Turn that blade a little more, will you?
I was sorry that Caribbean spiny lobster was on the “Avoid” list, but
Since I don’t care much for it and far prefer the Atlantic lobster (it has two delicious claws as well as a tail—much more to love), it doesn’t make much difference to me. But sea bass? Sea bass is the chaeaubriand of fish. I know I say I live by the courage of my convictions, but just how much courage should one woman have to put out?
If I could simply refuse to look for it at the fish market and refuse to buy
it to cook at home, it wouldn’t hurt so much. Like an alcoholic who can’t have
booze in the house, I could do that. But in order to avoid sea bass, I’ll have to
avoid restaurants. I’ll be the alcoholic who can’t go to bars. Some of my
favourite restaurants have sea bass on the menu. Rocco’s serves it with roasted
tomatoes. I also love roasted tomatoes. Restaurants just haven’t learned yet that
some fish are endangered, that the fishing of some species dangerously disturbs
the ecosytem of the sea, that the processing of some fish from foreign sources is
downright unsanitary. Until they do, I must suffer for my convictions.
Every time I see sea bass on a menu, I will crave it. I will hold out
(I hope!), but my tummy will ache for it. I will get withdrawal symptoms.
My name is Ev. I am a sea bass-oholic. I’ll have to sign a pledge.
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More Blogs by Ev McTaggart
I See the Light - Friday, October 03, 2008
The Man on the Corner - Monday, September 22, 2008
And how was YOUR day? - Friday, June 20, 2008
The torch has passed - Friday, May 23, 2008
Ain't love grand? - Monday, May 12, 2008