While this may not seem like it has a whole lot to do with anything else on this blog, I promise you, I’ll show you why it does. This morning on my drive to work, the local Washington DC NPR affiliate, WAMU, finished with a story about about how oyster populations are shrinking because they are being consumed by sting rays which make there way into the Chesapeake Bay. At first, I just figured the story would just talk about how they plan to save the Oysters, which they did, through the use of cages. But then the story took a bit of a twist that I didn’t expect.
Apparently the large amounts of cow nose [sting] rays that are making their way into the Bay is presenting a problem, what do fisherman do with all these rays….? Answer, market them and serve them in local restaurants. Yes you heard me, the next big thing on menus is fried ray meat tacos. According to the NPR report, it tastes a little like chicken, I mean what doesn’t taste like chicken? According to owner of Sam Miller’s Restaurant in Richmond, the ray takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it in, much like tofu (see, I told you this entry would tie into something). In addition, its high in protein and very low in fat, much like tofu. If marketed correctly, it could become like the Patagonian toothfish.
I bet you’re wondering what the heck a patagonian tooth fish is and why I bring it up. Well, like the report explained, the hard part is getting people to order a sea creature that really doesn’t sound too appetizing. Bruce Knecht, author of Hooked: Pirates, poaching and the perfect fish, explains that there is a bit of history on their side. The Patagonian toothfish was discovered in the late 70’s, and by the late 90’s was renamed the Chilean Sea bass and became popular all over the US as a trendy fish for upscale restaurants. This same type of marketing campaign is probably in the works in order to get people to eat the lovely sounding cow nose rays.
What is the moral of this NPR story? Well, I think that just about any food, no matter how odd the name sounds, chefs and marketing experts will find a way to make it sound trendy. I mean, I’m not going to lie, I love Chilean sea bass, and can safely say, that despite my eagerness to try almost any food, probably would be less inclined to order a patagonian tooth fish. Would I try a sting ray taco? Maybe. But would I try the ray under another name? You bet. Now the ultimate question: could you convince my fiancee to try the ray if you convince her its like tofu? Now that will be the job of fisherman and marketing experts, not me.