Apr 222015
 

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Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, when activities are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and celebrated in more than 192 countries each year.

In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere in many countries. This day of nature’s equipoise was later sanctioned in a Proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in recognition of his work in conservation. While that inaugural Earth Day was focused on the United States, an organization launched by Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations. Numerous communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on environmental issues.

There are many Earth Day events in China each year, especially focused on young children. As I talk to people here I get a sense of a growing concern for environmental issues. Recycling is the norm here in Kunming with public rubbish bins divided into recyclable and non-recyclable (and in my hostel too). Local governments pay for recycled materials, so some people make a business out of it. Next door to my hostel is a family enterprise that daily hauls off cardboard, plastic bottles etc. in amazingly laden tricycles (and you see them all the time on the streets). Here’s a gallery of events in China in previous years – mostly organized by schools.

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Earth Day is, of course, an ideal day to talk about organic and sustainable foods. To that end I am going to focus on a little-known fish, the Arctic char. Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) is a cold-water fish in the family Salmonidae, native to alpine lakes and arctic and subarctic coastal waters. It breeds in fresh water, and populations can either be landlocked or anadromous, migrating to the sea. No other freshwater fish is found as far north; it is, for instance, the only fish species in Lake Hazen on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic. It is one of the rarest fish species in Britain, found only in deep, cold, glacial lakes, and is at risk from acidification. In other parts of its range, such as Scandinavia, it is much more common, and is fished extensively. It is also common in the Alps, (particularly in Trentino and the mountainous part of Lombardy), where it can be found in lakes up to an altitude of 2,600 m (8,500 ft) above sea level, and in Iceland. In Siberia, it is known as golets and it has been introduced in lakes where it sometimes threatens less hardy endemic species, such as the small-mouth char and the long-finned char in Elgygytgyn Lake.

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The Arctic char is closely related to both salmon and lake trout, and has many characteristics of both. The fish is highly variable in color, depending on the time of year and the environmental conditions of the lake where it lives. Individual fish can weigh 20 lb (9.1 kg) or more with record-sized fish having been taken by anglers in northern Canada, where it is known as iqaluk or tariungmiutaq in Inuktitut. Generally, whole market-sized fish are between 2 and 5 lb (0.91 and 2.27 kg). The flesh color can range from a bright red to a pale pink.

The main reason for focusing on Arctic char is that it is completely sustainable. It breeds abundantly, and stocks are not remotely endangered. Furthermore, it is a delectable fish that can be used in any manner of dishes. Basically you can use recipes for it that you use for salmon or trout. Here’s a great site for recipe ideas:

http://www.thedailymeal.com/best-recipes/arctic-char

 

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I usually broil or grill (over wood coals) this kind of fish – high heat, turning once. I serve it over green veggies, usually spinach or asparagus with a flavored béchamel on top. My favorite flavorings for the sauce are chopped fresh dill, or lemon and capers. I’ve also used garlic and leeks.

Béchamel is traditionally made by melting a quantity of butter, and adding an equal part of flour to make a roux, which is cooked over gentle heat while stirring with a whisk. As it is a white sauce you must take care not to brown the roux. Then heated milk is gradually whisked in, and the sauce is cooked until thickened and smooth. The proportion of roux and milk determines the thickness of the sauce, typically one to three tablespoons each of flour and butter per cup of milk. One tablespoon each of butter and flour per cup of milk makes a thin, easily pourable sauce. Two tablespoons of each makes a medium thick sauce (use this for fish). Three tablespoons of each makes an extra thick sauce, such as used to fill croquettes or as a soufflé base. Salt and white pepper are added and it is customary to add a pinch of nutmeg. Optionally a whole or cut onion, studded with one or more whole cloves, and a bay leaf may be simmered with the milk and then strained before adding to the roux. In the case of poached fish you may add some of the stock to the milk.

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You can also make an English fish pie. Cut the fish in chunks, poach it gently, remove from the stock, and mix with béchamel. Place in an ovenproof casserole, top with a generous layer of mashed potato, dot with butter, and bake at high heat (or broil) until the top is golden. Typically I add sautéed leeks to the fish. Love leeks and fish !!

 

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