I was perusing Facebook the other week, scrolling through all the status updates – who’s being smug about their long weekend in the Keys, whose children have been saying adorably prescient things regarding the upcoming election – when I came across a food post. Normally I skip over food posts – no offense, but while your organic, locally sourced antelope poutine with a small-batch gose beer reduction may be the most sublime delight you’ve ever tasted, the picture you’ve stuck up on Facebook doesn’t really do me much good.
But this one was different. This one featured a meticulously prepared, well-dressed seafood dish – lionfish.
If you’re unfamiliar with lionfish, here’s the short version: They’re a nonnative invasive species that first showed up in our oceans in the ’80s after some wingnuts apparently released them from aquariums into the ocean. Now they’re here and, like New Yorkers at your favorite restaurant in January, they’re multiplying.
When it comes to invasive species, we hear more about the non-native pythons eating through western Broward. From the sounds of it, they’re going to digest their way through the swamps and turn up in greater numbers in suburban areas until they integrate into communities and, inevitably, become a majority voting bloc on the Sunrise City Commission.
We hear less about lionfish, but they are bad, bad dudes. Like most invasive species and people from Ontario, they have no known predators in South Florida. They eat all sorts of native fish, including several that we also like to eat and others that help our reef ecosystems keep running. Oh, and they’ve got venomous spines. Basically, they’re massive jerks.
Tasty, tasty jerks.
And that’s where we can help. Because let’s face it, modern Americans – we are not, by and large, the sort of hardy frontierspeople who are going to go out there and ruggedly solve the problems of nature with our bare hands and a spear. But we can eat. Friends, we can eat.
In this issue, we went to chefs from a pair of classically Floridian restaurants, Boatyard’s Peter Boulukos and Aruba Beach Café’s Chris Nealon, and asked them to come up with a recipe for lionfish, which Whole Foods has begun offering in its Florida stores. The results are on page 60, and having had the opportunity to sample some of the finished work, I can report it’s pretty yummy. Turns out, lionfish tastes a bit like snapper. We all like snapper, right? Great, now imagine snapper was trying to screw up everything you loved about Florida’s oceans. You’d be pretty mad at that delicious snapper, wouldn’t you? You’d want to grill some of it on the spot, just to show it, and also because you want dinner.
Will this solve the problem? Not by itself, no. But it can’t hurt and hey, if we’re going to eat seafood anyhow, it might as well be the seafood that’s trying to wreck all our other seafood.
My fellow Americans – my fellow Floridians – it’s not a call to arms so much as a call to forks. Get ready, people, this is what we’ve trained for.