OK Foodies, why should you care about the Great Lakes? They offer a cornucopia of native, succulent foods from the fresh water lakes and the rich soil of the watershed. A Great Lake’s gormet meal could begin with American caviar or duck foie gras before moving onto the main dish of roast duck, succulent whitefish or trout, Coho salmon perhaps some sea bass, sturgeon, perch, catfish or walleye. Some of these fish have been wrongly relegated to the poor man’s plate, but they could soon be on the verge of a great taste revival.
When early explorers were introduced to our native whitefish they praised it as the best in the world and said it was so delicious they could eat it for days without tiring of it. The Native Americans who helped the first settlers taught them not only of the Lake’s abundance of fish but also how to force the fertile fields to yield corn, squash and beans, wild rice and how to tap the trees for maple syrup. What an impressive culinary history and one that is in danger of extinction.
Whitefish exists upon diporeia but the zebra and quagga mussels are gobbling up this food source – yellow perch are similarly in danger. Industrial pollution from the last 100 years makes sturgeon, roughy, some salmons and many other Great Lakes fish impossible to eat due to high concentrations of PCB, Mercury and other chemical pollutants in the fish meat. The history of pollution, including sewage, has caused immeasurable damage to our native, regional food network, but we can still change this by focusing on the Great Lakes restoration strategy.
Ballast legislation that is awaiting Congress approval will have a positive impact on the invasive species such as zebra mussels that are harming the Lake’s ecology. The Great Lakes Legacy Act, if properly funded, can help eliminate the chemical and toxic pollution in the Lakes and the watershed. The State Revolving Fund, if funding is increased, can help our region build and fix our sewer system to adequately deal with our refuse and clean up the Lakes, tributaries and watershed. Just think of the amazing meals food lovers can cook up if we clean up our fresh water Lakes. To inspire salivation check out some of the recipes below: