Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I never thought I would be the sort of person to purchase a $7 tin of salmon. I've walked past these tins before in the grocery store and as I'd reach past them to get to my $1.09 mercury-laden, Thailand-produced, environmentally cruel tuna, I would think to myself "What kind of sucker buys this stuff?"
And now I am one of them.
My sister has been swearing up and down that this brand of canned fish is really worth the extra money. And I, now working and having some coins in my pocket, was itching to make some salmon cakes and decided to quell my curiosity. So I went to the bulk food/health store at the end of my street to buy a tin.
My choice of store was deliberate. Because the place I could most readily buy this type of salmon, a local, independent, family-owned grocery store, is one of my least favourite places to shop. I am sure I am a terrible person because of this. This grocery store places an emphasis on local produce, on environmentally sustainable food, on organic and fair trade and free range. And yet, I can't stand shopping there because of a specific type of shopper they attract. I call them the Middle Class Eco-Worriers.
These are people who splash their political beliefs all over their bodies. They wear their bike helmets in the store as they shop, so that you can be sure they didn't drive there; their carbon footprint is immaculate. They debate the superior health merits of alpaca milk versus common goats milk with the other parents in the Alternative Milks aisle; 'If you read the nutritional analysis, it's practically cow's milk!' they exclaim. Their kids wear garments made from reconstituted plastic bags woven under equitable circumstances by women in developing nations. They have bumper stickers on their hybrid vehicles that read "My other car is a bike", or "We support war resisters."
My bumper sticker, if we had a car that didn't blow up on the highway for the third time this past weekend, would read "Does my fat ass make my fat ass look fat in these jeans?"
Of course, I am exaggerating; these are truly decent people. They love their families and the environment and have figured out how to take up activism in their daily lives. But there is something smug, something unattainable about this kind of lifestyle, like only people with money can make a truly significant dent on the environmental crisis. What about people like me, who can't afford solar panels or free-range eggs? Who shop at Wal-Mart in those glasses with the fake nose and mustache attached, so no one will recognize me and look down on me?
So I went to the bulk/health food store instead, so I wouldn't have to deal with my Apathy guilt. And I bought my $7 tin of salmon, not because it was environmentally sustainable but because my sister said it tasted really great. I took it home, gave a little bit of the juice in the can to my cat, and put the salmon in a bowl. I flaked it, added some breadcrumbs, green onion and cayenne pepper;
Then I cracked an egg into the bowl, added a few generous dashes of sambal oelek sauce and mushed everything together with my hands, forming a few patties;
Which I then fried in some oil and listened to them sizzle and pop until golden brown;
And I ate them up so fast, I totally forgot to take pictures of the finished product. I couldn't help myself. They were so amazing; really spicy, with that lovely smoked flavour peaking through; crisp and hot. I truly outdid myself.
And I attempted to make peace with myself and my way of life. Maybe my version of activism is a bit more muted, more personal. I try to focus more on being a good person to the people who are immediately in my life; family, friends, clients at my work, the old lady on the bus who needs a seat. I'll donate $50 to the latest tsunami or hurricane relief effort, even though I feel like it's a drop in a bucket with a very large hole. And I'll keep buying the occasional $7 tin of salmon, if it means those salmon got to enjoy their short-lived freedom before making their way to the smokehouse.
And I'll hope that for now, it is enough.
Accidentally Ethical Salmon Cakes:
1 can salmon, preferably smoked, flaked
2 green onions, finely chopped
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less, to your taste)
2-3 large dashes of sambal oelek sauce
1. In medium size bowl, combine the flaked salmon, green onions, breadcrumbs, cayenne pepper, sambal oelek sauce and egg. Mash together with hands to form patties.
2. Heat oil over medium-high temperature; fry patties till golden brown on both sides; about 7-10 minutes total. Drain on paper towels if you like and serve immediately!