I often spend my first cup of coffee listening to Q on CBC. Yesterday, Jian was joined by food writer Francis Lam. They discussed shark’s fin soup in light of California’s move to ban finning, in the context of the ban being attacked as racist. Whether you’re familiar with this Chinese delicacy or not, both Francis’ article on the matter and Q segment are worth checking out.
My quick answer: seriously? People think this is racist?!
More extensively, in my letter that was read on Q today:
I’ve joked with my partner that should we marry and celebrate with a “traditional” Chinese banquet, there would be no way shark fin soup would be served. Firstly – from a purely gastronomical perspective, shark fin is tasteless: it is the broth that makes the soup. But more importantly, the environmental and ethical implications of shark finning simply can’t be justified for gastronomically boring dishes that have no purpose except acting as a status symbol. (At least foie gras is tasty.)
Culture and tradition are often used as arguments against change. Take flowers, for example. Most brides will insist on spending hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on floral arrangements without realising (or if realising, then without caring about) the ethical and environmental implications of the cut flower industry. And how many know the historical significance of the bouquet? Brides carried flowers to mask their own odor while walking down the aisle because showers were only an annual event! Certainly this is no longer necessary.
We desperately need to take issues of sustainability to heart – to be as deeply influenced by these values as we are by cultural ones.