Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hornswaggled (or Hoodwinked) by Food Marketing

Reading an article in Saveur magazine the other day (I couldn't resist buying it; there were ribs on the cover. Anyway, I get to reading about the american catfish farming industry. Much like the shrimp industry, stiff competition from Asian aquaculture has raised awareness of product-quality. If you don't believe me, compare a wild american shrimp vs. a frozen shrimp imported from Thailand or the like...sure, the imported stuff can be significantly cheaper, but the taste...

...let's just say it's like eating filet mignon vs. getting kicked in the balls. For the ladies reading this, uh, it's good for the GNP to eat local.

Anyway, this article is saying that the good catfish folks are trying to improve their marketing on the product. What's one way they're considering? Renaming the ol' mudcat. The marketing goons (I can call them that; I'm one of them) thought the name "catfish" was not appealing to hoity-toity upper crust-- you know, those snobby fat cats, what with their Royal Crown Cola, Cutlass Supremes, and Preferred Stock cologne. So, the catfish braintrust is looking to name the fish delicata. So, if you're in a fancy Manhattan or San Francisco restaurant, and notice delicata on the menu, know that it's the same fish that you caught back in college with a case of Natural Light and a pack of rotten hot dogs or chicken livers. Indeed, there was nothing delicata about those nights.

How dare the shameless boobs in the marketing department DECEIVE us so! But alas, it's been happening for a long time. Here are a few examples:

Everyone knows the prized, mighty-expensive Chilean Seabass. What a pretty name! Maybe that's because the original fish, the Patagonian Toothfish, was not very marketable. Look at that monster...I haven't seen smiles that bad since my cable package provided the BBC.

How about this one: sweetbreads. Sounds harmless enough. Hell, sounds delicious. What you may not know is that sweetbreads are the thymus gland and pancreas of lamb, pork, or beef. A little grisley for most, but they're supposedly delicious. If you get a chance, man up and try them. Just let a French cook make them for you: a pound of butter makes most anything taste good.

And, finally, let's take a look at a recent staple: Canola Oil. Found everywhere these days, I feel like I didn't see canola oil when I was a kid in the local grocery purveyor. So, I did a little research. Turns out, the food marketers thought, for some crazy reason, they would sell many bottles of a product labeled "Rapeseed Oil". Really?! Rapeseed? I'm gonna have to say the marketers made the right call on this one.

So, when you sit down at that fancy seafood shoppe (the way more fancy spelling of "shop"), and the waiter starts pimping the exotic delicata, don't hesitate, and order with pride. Why? Because- call it what you will- catfish is damn delicious. Just make sure you pair it up with something good. And while a German Kabinett (basically dry to slightly off-dry) Riesling, California Sauvignon Blanc, or dry Rosé would be great with fried catfish, I'm going to have to say the best pairing, hands down, is an ice cold beer. Cheers!

1 comment:

  1. Actually delicata is a catfish filet that has been deep skinned, a process that results in a filet of a much desirable texture and quality. The delicata can be thrown on the grill while keeping intact, something that cannot be done with regular catfish filets that would fall apart.