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Asian Carp's Religious Use

By Staff in Food on Mar 27, 2010 5:45PM

Gefilte Fish
Gefilte fish, photo by PlaysWithFood
In a delicious bit of coincidence this week, the Reader printed its Asian carp edition just as Jews around the world prepare to celebrate the Passover holiday Monday night.

What do they have in common? Gefilte fish.

The ground up fish cakes are standard issue for most Passover Seders and carp has traditionally been one of their main ingredients. So it should be no surprise that the industrious folks at Shafer Fisheries in Thompson, IL who pull tons of the invasive Asian carp out of the Illinois River would see an opportunity. However, it probably was a surprise that the effort would tip off an international incident. But one month ago, after high tariffs threatened to sink a deal for two containers of Asian carp fillets sent to Israel, the big guns came out. Representative Don Manzullo and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were asked to step in to resolve the carp controversy. Manzullo’s DC office confirms that an agreement had been reached for the two containers already in Israel, but that seven others would likely need to go through Canadian middlemen as our neighbors to the north have a free trade agreement with the Holy Land.

The story drew chuckles and renewed the call to “eat ‘em all” as a solution to the Asian carp problem. But if the experiences of the 10 local chefs in The Readers’ coverage are indicative, we will need to find a better way to fix the problem. Chicago’s star chefs did not have a lot of luck turning the invasive species into tasty menu items. In fact, they had trouble even cutting the fish up. Only one participating chef came up with a recipe that might fit his menu, but Brown Trout’s Sean Sanders still has not been able to make it work at an appropriate price point.

And if the last Seder we attended is any indication, gefilte fish is not going to make much impact either. Only half of the folks we sat down with partook of the cold, gooey cakes. The rest politely pushed them away. So if we want to head off the carp invasion, maybe we need to focus on divine intervention, because holiday or not, the American palette is clearly not up to the job.

Post by: Josh Mogerman