Thursday, July 1, 2010

No Po' Boy for You

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I visited the Big Easy when I was 18 years old, a week after the end of Mardi Gras. All I experienced of that alcohol orgy was streets littered with muddy beads, crushed plastic cups, and toilet paper.

Missing the fun bits of Mardi Gras was fail number one. Fail number two was that I visited as a staunch vegetarian. I'm sure this is callous and too soon to say, but I'm very upset that I missed out on pre-Katrina, pre-Rita, and pre-BP-fiasco New Orleans as an omnivore.

I was a teenager, an idiot, and I didn't realize what I was doing to myself. I gave up vegetarianism one fateful day involving Peruvian rotisserie chicken a year later, but it was too late. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita had transformed New Orleans.

I was assured, however, that the cuisine survived New Orlean's disaster streak, so I put a trip off. Oh, how fragile the world is!

Skip forward a few years and BP's lack of effective action have contributed to the possible death of the local fishing economy and culture in New Orleans, killed people's livelihoods, and hope for me eating an authentic po' boy made with Gulf oysters for a long time.

The fishermen who man the oyster beds are being diverted to help with the oil spill, and the oyster beds have already taken a hit:

"Meanwhile, many of the oyster beds have been closed as a precaution against the arrival of the oil. Some of the beds, however, have become victims of caution. Shortly after the spill began, authorities opened some of the vent-like structures built by the Army Corps of Engineers in order to push freshwater out toward the Gulf and keep the oil from entering the river and surrounding marsh. That meant sharply decreasing salinity in some of the waters where oysters are harvested — killing the beds."-Time Magazine

Some of the only "help" the Gulf has received has been in the form of friendly fire, then. Even worse, the fishing areas surrounding the Exxon Valdez spill have taken almost two decades to recover, and not all of the species have recovered fully. How much hope can we have for the Gulf Coast spill, which is worse? At the very least, it takes two to four years for an oyster crop to grow, and that's not including the possibility that the oil will kill the rest of them.

At least a few restaurateurs are standing up for the fishermen in the Gulf.

Susan Spicer, a New Orleans chef, is suing BP as part of a class action suit, according Ron Ruggless' article on According to the lawyers, “Much of plaintiff's business is based on the unique quality of Louisiana seafood, as well as the chain of delivery of that resource from the initial harvester (be it fisherman, oyster grower or shrimper)... “Because this chain of delivery cannot be maintained, plaintiff's business has been, and continues to be, materially damaged.”

I wish good luck on the chefs and the fishermen and tourists who had their hearts set on Gulf oysters. Learn from my mistake, people, and don't become vegetarians until your high cholesterol forces you to.

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