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Let them eat carp

SEPTEMBER 22, 2011

Let them eat carp

Qu’ils mangent de la carpe

by shf

CHICAGO ( — Asian carp are prolific, plankton-gobbling pests threatening to choke the life out of the Great Lakes, all the while an escalating number of Illinois residents go to bed hungry every night. Illinois officials launched an anti-hunger program today designed to address both crises, one bony, carpy nibble at a time.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources held a public tasting event in Chicago, complete with a Louisiana chef and a team of paramedics on standby, to start a campaign that may lead to feeding the bony, carpy fish to people who might otherwise starve to death, or steal from wealthy people and political donors in order to eat.

Chef Philippe Parona deep-fried some carp cakes, and also sautéed a pan full of carp fillets containing several protruding, jagged bones.

The fillets, after being deep-fried in butter with a large dosing of Creole seasoning, had no detectable taste of their own thanks to the massive quantity of butter and seasoning needed to cover the otherwise carpy taste.

A homeless man, sampling the fare, was heard to say shortly before choking to death on a large carp bone, “Yum… It’s to die for!”

The carp cakes, slathered with a cheese and cream sauce, are as savory and moist as just about anything drowning in a cheese and cream sauce would be, according to Chef Parona. He noted that they “compared favorably with some of the overpriced soggy appetizers typically found at a 24-hour Denny’s along Interstate 70.”

It was not made clear whether the Illinois Department of Natural Resources would be supplying the state’s hungry residents with free butter, Creole seasoning, and cheese and cream sauces when it came time for them to prepare the bony, carpy tasting fish in their own homes or highway-underpass encampments.

“Fish translates to one thing: food,” Parona said. “Well, actually you could use these carp as fertilizer, but that’s not what I was paid to come here today and say. The idea to exploit Asian carp’s nutritional value has major obstacles, mainly overcoming the gag-provoking response that its outward appearance often inspires when someone thinks about eating it. After all, this is a butt-ugly fish that grows to 100 pounds and is able to sail out of the water.”

“We’re in uncharted water here. Well, actually, we’re in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources spokesman Kris McLoud. “Why remove the carp and then dump them into a landfill when you can take them and use them for food? If we can get passed the name `carp’ and all of the dangerous bones that present a constant choking hazard, and all of that negative perception that comes with carp and bones and choking… we can prove this is going to be a highly nutritious, cheap meal. Now, I’ll be damned if I would eat carp or serve carp to my family since I earn a government salary and can buy real food, but the homeless and hungry should be grateful that we are feeding them something that we would have otherwise dumped into a landfill.”

The idea is modeled after a state highway program that collects roadkill meat and meat-by-products to be ground and distributed to food pantries.

But, there’s no system in place for netting Asian carp in large amounts and cleaning and distributing the fish. State officials don’t know the most feasible way to dole out the carp: minced or as bony fillets.

While eating Asian carp isn’t new — it’s consumed in China and in pretentious French restaurants — the first step to get it to the masses is countering the gag and choke factor.

Illinois officials appear to have their work cut out for them. Recent visitors to Our Lady of Grain Food Pantry in Chicago were skeptical. The pantry puts canned and dry goods, meat and bread in the food bags it gives out. If carp were to make its way there, workers would include it with the meat, leaving people to figure out how to cook the bony fish on their own.

“I wouldn’t eat it,” William Vincent, 49, an unemployed former bank worker, said with a look of disgust on his face.

“Ugh, I don’t know. I might if I got desperate enough,” said Christopher Walker, 25, a former moving company worker.

Chef Phillip Moss was among the first to serve it in a pompous Chicago establishment. “It’s nearly impossible to fillet because of all the jagged bones, but everyday cooks could use its minced form as a beef substitute.” Moss said. He then pointed out that “another now popular fish, the Chilean Sea Bass, was rebranded from its original name, Patagonian Toothfish.”

Nutritionists and food scientists tout Asian carp as low in mercury because they don’t eat other fish and are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.

These same nutritionists and food scientists were a bit less forthcoming when asked what other pollutants, toxic compounds and adulterants might be saturated in the carp’s flesh from their life in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Qu’ils mangent de la carpe.

Bone Appetit.