Eating with the Ecosystem

Katey Parker

Katey Parker › Katey's first food memory involves herself hands deep and covered in Gregg's famous chocolate cake, resulting ...

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Periwinkle etouffee. Sculpin a la plancha. Cream of Phragmites soup. A new kind of eating is taking place on the shores of New England, as six Rhode Island restaurants gear up to show locals, through their palates, what their coastline has to offer. This spring, Rhode Island chefs, fisherman and scientists have come together for a dinner series entitled “Eating with the Eco-System," to bring light to eating not just locally and sustainably, but ecologically.

Organized by environmentalist and fisherman Sarah Schumann, the series aims to redesign seafood menus around the region to reflect the bounty of life in local waters.  Their mission says it best:

Eating with the Ecosystem raises awareness about New England's marine ecosystems through localized dining inspired by science. Embracing a new definition of "sustainable seafood" that takes into account the whole ecosystem, this initiative promotes a unique eating experience that is simultaneously tactile, visual, ethical, and educational.

As the local food movement catches steam, consumers are focusing on fish from bodies of water closest to them, and are beginning to educate themselves as to what exactly those are. Chefs also recognize the need to serve sustainable food options, and have reached out to fishermen and scientists to hear from those who know the waters best.

“With seafood products now coming from closer to home, we can get creative about softening the impacts of our meal choices on our blue planet,” said Chef Derek Wagner of Nick’s on Broadway, who will kick off the series on Tuesday, March 20.

What does eating with the eco-system actually mean? Termed "edible ecology," this entails determining what food products can be removed from the ocean without damaging or stressing the surrounding eco-system. For example, scallops and hake will grace the menu due to their unique relationship: in the wild, juvenile hake take refuge from predators inside of scallops.

“The phrase ‘eating with the ecosystem’ means planning our meal choices around whatever the sea has to offer,” said Schumann. 

Trace and Trust and Wild Rhody Seafood are other organizations working to bring consumer awareness to New England’s waters, and introduce new types of fish to local dinner plates. Having knowledge behind every food choice we make is both a luxury and a necessity. With the resource of programs such as these, we can begin to understand not just new fish and new flavors, but how we impact our environment three meals a day.

For more information, or to find out where the events are being held, visit www.eatingwiththeecosystem.org.