Slowfish at COA

by Chris Petersen with some thoughts added  from Marlene Nuart
Photos by Rowan Fraley

I love the ideas of the slowfood movement.  Local food sources, local cuisine, preserving diversity in what we grow, catch, and eat. An alternative to fast food. The name, however, has never resonated.  I always find myself doing a double take, what is slow? Isn’t it just good? So now you have to imagine a fish behavioral ecologist  having to swallow another term, the Slowfish movement. Same premises, same goals, just fish.  Slowfish.  You can imagine the first images coming up in my mind.

But it really is an important movement, and as part of the Slowfood movement, Slowfish came to COA this spring, and is the latest way that COA is combining fisheries into its food systems program.

Like lots of things at COA, this was initiated by students, run by students, and as a faculty member I (Chris) just encourage and let it happen. At one point Davis Taylor was also there with the group, but really, Davis and I were just there to watch, listen, and learn.

This is the third in a May-July series of Madeline and me trying to catch up on some of the things we crammed into May, so with this entry we are being sneaky, we got help from COA student Marlene Nuart, who organized the Slowfish seminar and workshop afterward with a group of students on May 15th. Chris got brought on to help with the seminar that featured UNH student and fisherman Spencer Montgomery; Niaz Dorry, the coordinating director of NAMA, the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, where she has worked advocating for small-scale fisheries, fishermen, and food; and Vera Francis, Vice Chief of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, fisherwoman, and activist. How everyone even got to the room was typical connecting the dots. Spencer met Marlene at a New England Farm to Institution conference, suggested a panel, COA faculty member Molly Anderson suggested Niaz, who suggested Vera.


Spencer talks about slowfish with students (including Paige Crenshaw, Corneia Brabazon, Shlomit Auciello, and Marlene  with Niaz (orange shirt and vest) and Vera (black jacket) looking on.

But really what the day was about was the food. After the talks, several students joined Spencer and Marlene to make a meal of what they had found locally. Avoiding the obvious lobster, that meant clams, smelts, and bloaters (whole smoked river herring).


Soft-shelled clams

Rainbow smelt

Rainbow smelt

Spencer was awesome, directing people, laughing, listening, pulling out spices, and always engaged. Food prep mean being creative, with smoked herring becoming a spread on bread with pickled radishes, smelt bodies breaded and heads used to make a fish stock to cook risotto in (very rich), and clams turned into linguine with frutti de mare (clams in red sauce).


Terry Price, Spencer, Maxim Lowe, and Marlene taking a break to pose for a camera shot with smelt


Paige and Cornelia doing some food prep

The Davis Center kitchen (downstairs from my office) was a great place for the intimate group to put food together, and everyone clearly had a great time. A major point is to eat what is available, and keep a high consumption biodiversity index, with lots of variety and not being afraid to use an underutilized species not favored in the market. Looking back on it, I think an equally important goal was to have fun with food, to enjoy eachother’s company, and have a good evening together.


The crew working on dinner prep in the Davis Center kitchen


Chris sneaking in some food while COA students Nina Duggan, Lizza Backes, and Katie O’Brien do the work.


Spencer and Marlene show off the finished plates


Above: . Right: Dinner (with roasted potatoes and salad).


How you end a day of learning about fish, a dinner with COA students on the lawn outside the Davis Center

Originally Elmer Beal, cooker of fish extraordinaire and newly minted emeritus anthropology professor at COA  was going to join us, but he had a date with a blood clot, and we are happy to see him around looking happy and healthy again.  When we were doing the dinner we were thinking about you and hoping you recovered fast (we could have used some of your smoked salmon, I think).

About marinestudiesatcoa

Chris is a professor of marine ecology and policy at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine
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