Salmon Wars: The Dark Underbelly of Our Favorite Fish | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

Episode 710
April 27, 2023

Salmon Wars: The Dark Underbelly of Our Favorite Fish

Salmon Wars: The Dark Underbelly of Our Favorite Fish

Investigative journalists Doug Frantz and Catherine Collins take us inside the farmed salmon industry to explore the open net pens, health effects and future of America's favorite fish. Plus, Homa Dashtaki shares the traditional Iranian method for making creamy old-world yogurt; Dan Pashman invites us to a picnic; and we make Thai hot and sour soup.

Questions in this episode:

"I’ve been making French fries for 50 years, but lately they’ve been coming out soggy and lackluster. How do I get them back to their usual crisp?"

"How do I make a creamy soup in my crockpot?"

"Do you have suggestions for a homemade gluten free pasta recipe?"

"I can’t get my goetta to set up. Can you help me improve my recipe?"

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Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host, Christopher Kimball. Journalists Doug Frantz and Catherine Collins have dived deep into the murky waters of the salmon industry all because Catherine's father Paul was a fly fisherman.

Catherine Collins: I do blame dad. He loved fly fishing the way Arnold Palmer loved golf.

CK: Paul was intrigued by the new salmon farms off the coast of Nova Scotia. So, we went out in a glass bottom boat to check them out. What he saw was shocking. But it was just the beginning.

Doug Frantz: What we found Chris was a problem was in fact, much larger than we imagined. Catherine's father had seen only the tip of the iceberg 20 years earlier.

CK: Today, we go below the surface to see what's happening with America's favorite fish. But first, it's my conversation with Homa Dashtaki, she's the founder of the small batch yogurt company, The White Moustache. Her book is Yogurt and Whey Recipes of an Iranian Immigrant Life. Homa welcome to Millstreet.

Homa Dashtaki: Thank you for having me.

CK: So, before we dive into yogurt, tell me a little bit about Mobarak in Iran, that's where you spent summers growing up. It's a great picture that you paint in the book, a few dozen mud houses with open air gardens, irrigated family farms, big pomegranate harvests every fall, it seems like it was, you know, really formative for you.

HD: Yeah, so my family is Zoroastrian. So, it's an indigenous Iranian group that lives in Mobarak and the small surrounding villages. It's a magical, wonderful, small, safe place. And it really has painted sort of my my view on life and mainly food because food is done in such community there.

CK: You mentioned Zoroastrianism and there is something about it that really appeals to me. You write, if you're a believer and adherent, you're ultimately responsible for your choices in life, is that sort of the central tenant of this belief?

HD: Yeah. And it gives each individual the power of like their own good mind to decide between what is right and what is wrong, and it allows for like a very complex set of circumstances to exist. But also this recognition of like, light always wins out over darkness. And hope always wins out over despair.

CK: While you included some poetry in the book that seems to get it that too by the Persian poet of Farsi, “do not surrender your grief so quickly, let it cut more deeply let it ferment and season you, as few human or divine ingredients can’. Is that, is that something you live by or is that just something that people say?

HD: I think it's something I live by, it was really painful for me to write this book. And it was painful for me to deal with being from a complicated country that I have these beloved roots in the I can only touch in my memories. Like I'm trying to live for a future that I don't even know I can have or touch or taste again. And I thought this poem actually captured that so beautifully. Like how you know, pain and suffering can season and ferment and make something delicious.

CK: So, I wouldn't say maybe yogurt it's a religious experience for you but it's, it's an experience. So, do you want to explain to us how it's made and why you just love the whole process and what it means to you.

HD: Oh, it's definitely a religious experience for me. Yeah. I would say it an even more colorful language if I could. And it's very spiritual to me because of how it connects me back to my people. But there truly is like, I can't imagine. And I've had children, and I'm still like, no making yogurt is something else. This is real special. Do you want me to get into it now or?

CK: Yeah, how do you make it.

HD: So, you take this ingredient that I think is just the most sacred ingredient on the planet, which is milk. And once the milk is heated up, you'll put it in a bowl, and you let it cool down. And the way I like to teach everyone how to get the milk to the right temperature to inoculate it to add the cultures to it is to use your pinky finger and just keep it for three seconds swirling it around to see if you can keep it in there. So, what you're doing is you're testing to make sure it's not too hot to kill it, and it's not too cold for it not to take. I think it's similar to how yeast is treated similar to how you prepare a baby's bath. And the cultures are just a previous batch of yogurt. And so, this is like a gift that keeps on giving. And then you wrap up this bowl with blankets and go to bed. And as much time you need to sleep, the yogurt will have time to sleep. And then you get up in the morning and you unwrap this bowl and you have this bowl of perfectly set yogurt. And what we do at the White Moustache is that we'll whisk that yogurt until like it's perfectly smooth. And then we'll pour it into an extremely fine mesh cheese cloth. And then each drop of whey that leaks out of that leaves you with a decadent cream thick, luxurious consistency.

CK: Carrot Cake with yogurt frosting, I'm I'm always looking for a different way to do frosting. What is yogurt frosting? How do you make that.

HD: So, I'll strain the yogurt out until I get the desired consistency. And you can use it in conjunction with a cream cheese, you can use it in conjunction with powdered sugar. I think it's a wonderful substitute for the butter in the butter cream. So, you can get the creaminess, you can get a little bit of the tang and you can lose some of the heaviness of the butter.

CK: So, let's talk about how stubborn you are now. So, you were in LA., and you wanted to make yogurt. Yeah. And there's a rule in all 50 states that you have to make it with a machine. You got pro bono legal help, and you sued for two years. So, did you think you might actually win that case or you were just making a point? Or how did that work out?

HD: It didn't work out so great. But I mean, at that time, we were just making like eight to 12 gallons of yogurt a week. And I wanted to prove a point. And I think I was motivated by having something that resonated so deeply with who I was. And after two years, I realized there was no way I was going to win that battle.

CK: So, what why in New York City, can you do it the way you want to do it, even though all 50 states have this law.

HD: So, the biggest problem in California was that the last thing they wanted was to like have to come in and regulate a whole bunch of little yogurt people and in New York where they have the same rules the approach here was all right, like walk us through every single step of your process and let's see how we can make this work. And it's, you know, truly been a gift. And, you know, all I wanted to do was sort of like have a farmers market stall once a week and with my dad, but this has turned into quite an adventure.

CK: Homa congratulations. Just a great story. And I wish you all the best. Thank you.

HD: Thank you very much.

CK: That was Homa Dashtaki, founder of The White Moustache yogurt company. Her book is Yogurt and Whey you can get her recipe for carrot cake with yogurt frosting at Milk Street Now it's time to answer your cooking questions with my co-host, Sara Moulton. Sara is of course the star of Sara's Weekday Meals on public television. Also, author of Home Cooking 101. So, before we open the phone lines, I once sat next to Madeline Kaman, The Making of a Cook was the name of her book, I think making a book.

Sara Moulton: Yes, well she had several cookbooks.

CK: That's a great book,

SM: A very good book.

CK: And she and Julia I know had a little bit of back and forth. And she was spirited, but she was extremely knowledgeable and a great cook. I just wondered if you ever ran into her.

SM: Not directly I have some of her students ended up working for me. And she was a great teacher. But she was a bit prickly. What can I say? And Julia never had anything bad to say about anybody, but she would not call Madeline by your name. She was that woman from New York. And you could understand why Madeline was a little annoyed because Julia was not French, and she was not a chef. And yet her show was called the French Chef. So, Madeline was a tad verbal about it

CK: I think Julia was never happy with the term chef.

SM: No. Oh, she always said no. I am a home cook. Yeah, yeah. So that was one of the things. No it wasn't her thing. But it did create a lot of animosity between the two of them.

CK: Nothing like a little food gossip.

SM: Kerfuffle. Yeah, all right. Let's take a call.

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling.

Caller: Hello, my name is Janice Jackson.

SM: Where are you calling from?

Caller: Well, I live in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.

SM: How can we help you today?

Caller: I'm just an average run of the mill woman who likes to be in the kitchen and likes to cook but I do have a few signature dishes that I'm very proud of. Not many, but the one thing that has stood out have been my homemade In Hancock French fries, I've been making them for over 50 years. I have changed electric stoves in the last 50 years, but it's still an electric stove. I'm using the same honest to goodness pots that I have used since I was married, making them the very same way with Crisco shortening, etc, etc. But the last five or six years, they come out soggy and greasy and they don't brown making they're awful, awful, awful. I just say okay, that's it, but just throw them away. If you could help me get back my crown of French Red Queen of our family, I'd be super, super grateful.

SM: Okay, well, let's go back to the good old days when you made them just as you loved them. What kind of potato did you use back then?

Caller: Idaho potatoes.

SM: Okay, those are the same as russets. So, what would you do?

Caller: Peel them and rent them with cold water of course, hand cut them, and then put them on paper towel, then heat the oil and fill a pot heated up till it got really high till I knew it was hot enough. And then I would put them in with my ladle. And then turn down the heat when it started to bubble too high. That was it.

SM: First of all, I'm amazed that you had such success to begin with. But this is a classic home cooks story where you just sort of knew when the fat was hot enough. In the old days, they didn't have deep fat thermometers, but I would strongly recommend moving forward you get one. What most people do these days that seems to work pretty well as they start out the way you did. They cut up the potatoes, they rinse the potatoes get rid of the excess starch, they pat dry the potatoes, and they use russets. That would be the potato I would use. And then they do a double fry process and the first round, they put the potatoes in and take them till they begin to get lightly golden get a little bit of a crust on him not for very long. And then they take them out and jack up the heat to more like 425. So, when you put the potatoes in, it goes down to 375 400 and finish them off that way. electric stoves are weird, they cycle on and off. It's not a consistent temperature. That might be part of your problem too. And that's yet another reason to use a deep fat thermometer. And I think Chris is like bouncing up and down his chair because he wants to weigh in

CK: Yeah, I have a few questions. What's the diameter of the pot you're using?

Caller: It's a stainless steel like a soup.

CK: So, it's a 10 inch pot. (Yeah) And how deep is when the Crisco melts, how deep is it in inches, roughly.

Caller: Probably two to three inches.

CK: First of all, I use peanut oil, I wouldn't use Crisco. The more oil you have, the more it will retain heat, obviously, right. It's like a heat sink. So, with the two inches of oil in it, you may not have enough hot oil, so you put the potatoes in and the temperature just drops down to 250. So, I would definitely use more oil than that because you want a lot of oil to retain the heat. I totally agree with Sara you want you could use an instant read thermometer but 325 and then take them out, drain them and let them sit for a bit and then refry at 360 or 370 other thing I got from a friend of mine, Kenji Lopez Alt, he cuts them he rinses them, plots them dry and then freezes them. (Really) And he does it overnight or you can do it for at least an hour I made these four or five weeks ago. I froze them and then double fried them. They were amazing. That first fry allows you to get that really crunchy exterior on the second fry because some of the oil does get into the potato which changes the structure. But if you go to Serious Eats and check out French fries, I think it's his article. It made spectacular I was a hero with my kids for at least 20 minutes you know.

SM: Janis you too can be a hero again

CK: You can be a hero.

Caller: I want to be a hero again especially with the teenager’s

CK: Peanut oil use more oil, check out the freezing use it. And definitely use russets do not use any other kind of potato.

Caller: Okay, russets it will be

CK: and to answer your question we have no idea why it stopped working. Yeah, I mean, I think your oil for some reason. You're just not getting the oil hot enough and maybe not using enough fat. Yeah, that's what sounds like what the problem is. Yeah.

SM: Okay.

CK: Take care.

SM: All right, Janice.

Caller: Thank you so much. Bye bye.

SM: Bye

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you're stumped in the kitchen, we're here to help. Give us a ring anytime. 855-426-9843 that's 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Katie.

CK: How can we help you?

Caller: I am calling from Wasa, Nebraska which is a booming metropolis of about 600 people located in the northeast corner of the state. We are fortunate enough here to have a lot of open space, so I grow a lot of my own vegetables and I'm involved in my own livestock production and things like that. So, like many people, I commit the culinary crime, if you will, of utilizing the crock pot a lot, because I've got a lot of different supplies around the house to just toss in. Let it be in the crock pot for four to six hours and then come home in the evening and you've got yourself a great meal. One of my questions is, a lot of times I'm put in things like soups and stews together. And I'm just throwing in what I have. What's the good way to take kind of a recipe such as that and make a soup creamy. So, this could be like a sausage, potato leek soup or chicken and wild rice or something along those lines.

CK; With potatoes and rice, any starch. Just take some of the liquid from the soup and the starch and throw in a blender food processor and just puree it and add it back to the soup. And you can do that and you know, two or three steps so you can get the thickness you want. And that's all natural, there's no thickening other than that, and that works great. Or you can make a slurry which is equal parts cornstarch and liquid hot liquid and just whisk it together. And then slowly whisk it into the soup. To do that, you might want to separate out the liquid from the solid so you can easily whisk that slur into liquid. But the best thing is if you have something simple like potatoes or carrots or something like that, you can just puree that with a liquid and then just use a ladle. Ladle some out into a blender, puree it, put it back in, stir it and do it again if you want something thicker, you know that's the simplest method right, Sara?

SM: I agree 100% (What?) Yes. (Holy) I know what wow happened here. Yeah. But the things you mentioned rice, you mentioned potatoes. Another really good one is beans. Yeah, like white beans or kidney beans or whatever because they'll just give you a lovely but any vegetable will puree nicely.

Caller: Okay,

SM: if you have meat in there, you probably don't want to puree up the meat although that wouldn't be the end of the world but it's probably better to try to get out the vegetable part of it and puree it and then put it back in, you want to get the purest flavor it will be so good.

CK: You're not putting dairy in a little bit like a quarter cup or something. Sometimes I find like of heavy cream or half & half .

Caller: That's what I'm actually doing now.

CK: It just adds a little extra dimension which is fine. I wouldn't put a cup in but I think a few tablespoons, it’s kind of nice

SM: of sour cream.

CK: Yeah, just a little bit is fine. But anyway,

SM: the only one of those things though that you can boil is heavy cream. If it's sour cream or something else add it, add it afterwards.

Caller: Okay. Yeah, like right before serving.

SM: Yes, Jeez. I want to come to your house. That sounds like yummy stuff you make.

CK: How come nobody ever invites us to dinner anymore.

SM: I don’t know Chris

CK: it’s something about us.

Caller: You're welcome here anytime, but it will take you a full day of travel. I fear quite a few plane changes and then renting a car but you you're welcome here anytime.

CK: You know, I've noticed I get plenty of invitations from people who know I'm not going to show up because it's too far. How about my next-door neighbor? Maybe he should invite me. Alright. Anyway. Thanks for calling.

SM: Yes. Thanks, Katie.

Caller: Thanks so much. It's been lovely. Thank you.

SM: Okay. Bye.

Caller: Bye.

CK: That's something we should talk about

SM: Why nobody likes us.

CK: I think maybe it's my breath or something.

SM: I don’t know, maybe it’s your attitude.

CK: I shower, my personality you think?

SM: Maybe

CK: Yeah, but that's you know, any chef or whatever food person who's been around will say the same thing. You're so grateful.

SM: that somebody cooks

CK: if someone said I'm putting hot dogs on the grill (Yeah), I'll be there.

SM: I'm making your tuna fish sandwich

CK: and I would be desperately happy

SM: Me too. Yeah.

CK: So, is everybody listening out there?

SM: We're available.

CK: We're available. Alright. This is Milk Street Radio coming up the truth about salmon. That's up after the break.

WM: Hi, this is Wes Martin. I'm the director of culinary production at Milk Street between cooking for photoshoots recipe development and tastings. I get to make wonderful food from all over the world, which I make it home for myself all the time. Learn more about membership options at Milk Street

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Right now, I'm joined by Doug Frantz and Catherine Collins. They're co-authors of Salmon Wars, the Dark Underbelly of our Favorite Fish, Doug and Catherine, welcome to Milk Street.

Catherine Collins: Thank you for having us.

Doug Frantz: Thanks very much. It's great to be with you.

CK: So, we're talking about salmon farming, and its ills. So, let's start with some stats. 90% of the salmon consumed in North America is farmed. In 2019 in Newfoundland, more salmon died in cages than were harvested and 70% of the world's salmon comes from crowded cages floating and fragile ocean ecosystems. So, tell me the story. This is one of the moments when you got interested in this. I think your father Catherine, your father, in Nova Scotia he uncovered a good example of what you're talking about, right?

CC: Yes, he did. And it is an odd topic for us because as journalists, we've covered everything from trafficking and nuclear weapons technology to fraud and wars. And this is the first time we've ever approached fish. But I do blame dad he loved fly fishing the way Arnold Palmer loved golf. There were fly rods in the closet and my grandfather's wicker reel hung from a hook. Dad fished all his life. And then as of course, he could see as everyone could see that the population of fish was dropping, and he just stopped fishing because of this concern. He didn't even like to do catch and release. But when my parents retired and moved back to Nova Scotia, they lived in a little town on the south shore and nearby a __ very small salmon farm when and dad went out with a with a friend and a boat, after a couple of years a glass bottom boat, and they could see that there was very little marine life down below and the eelgrass was all gone. And he knew right then, as the experts were learning also that this was not going to be the answer to what was happening with wild salmon around the world.

DF: Yeah, and then after we moved home ourselves to Nova Scotia, they were talking about plans by one of these big multinational Norwegian firms, sir Mack to locate more than 20 Salmon farms along the coast of Nova Scotia. And we listened as experts in lobster, fishers and environmentalists and just public citizens, detailed the problems that come with the salmon farms. And we got concerned and so we did what we always did during our career as newspaper reporters, we investigated and what we found Chris was a problem that was in fact, much larger than we imagined. Catherine's father had seen only the tip of the iceberg. 20 years earlier. You know, as a reporter, I investigated organized crime, I investigated the cult of Scientology, and I always was able to get the other side to sit down maybe for a difficult and adversarial interview. But when I was investigating the Church of Scientology at the New York Times, I sat in a room with 13 of their lawyers. And they responded to the questions. What we found here with the salmon farming industry is they refuse to talk to us. And that is because they control the narrative. They're the ones who tell you that the salmon is raised sustainably and spread this information. And we saw this happen very early in the first criticism of farmed Atlantic salmon, which Catherine has spent a lot of time on that study

CC: That was done. It was funded by Pew Research, and it was published in 2004 by Science Magazine, it was a report that was to examine the various toxins in salmon flesh. And afterwards, the industry kicked into high gear with a huge media campaign around the world. And they attacked the funders and the researchers accusing them of having a anti-pollution agenda. I mean, it's boggles the mind who on earth has a pro promotion agenda.

CK: Yeah, what a terrible thing. So, could you describe how it works like, just physically a salmon farm? How did they do it?

CC: Well, a typical open net facility contains a series of round or square pans. They're suspended on the top of the ocean and anchored to the seabed below by steel cables. And generally each farm will contain maybe six to 12 cages strung together and each cage will hold as many as 100,000 fish. So, a farm can contain as many as a million fish or more. And in fact, these farms are only growing, and they become so large now you can actually see them from space. They're visible on satellite imagery.

CK: So, the problem with that is, this is a very dirty pollution heavy way of raising fish

CC: Exactly. Studies have shown that even a small salmon farm one containing maybe 200,000 fish produces fecal matter and waste roughly equivalent to a town of 65,000 people. And a salmon farm will rob marine life and eelgrass of oxygen that they need to survive. And it's a different issue on the East Coast versus the west coast. On the East Coast, we really don't have Atlantic salmon anymore. But the Pacific Coast still has a vibrant Pacific salmon commercial fishery. And these farms are often located in routes that the wild salmon prefer. And the danger there is that these little sea lice that grow in a concentrated populations and the farms will spread to the to the wild salmon.

CK: So let's talk about health. What are these fish fed and why is farming turning out a food that is not good for you?

DF: Well, you get right to the heart of half the problem there. The feed is ground up fish meal and dried out fish oil that comes from small, foraged fish and the pellets that they turn into contain heavy amounts of PCBs. And that's a likely carcinogen. And the levels of PCBs in farmed Atlantic salmon are seven to 10 times higher than PCBs in wild salmon. Every PCB particle that you eat is still in your body when you die as an old person, you know, so that the the accumulation of these puts people at risk, particularly pregnant women, and infants and children because of the impact of these toxins on brain development. Among other problems is these cages are petri dishes for pathogens and parasites. And in order to fight this salmon, farmers use a lot of pesticides, and they use antibiotics and those chemicals remain as residue in salmon flesh.

CK: So, let's talk about the consumer here in the States for a moment. So, I get this question all the time. Is there a place of origin for farmed salmon, that's the best that is has the best practices, or is all farmed salmon, just something you shouldn't eat?

CC: Not all salmon farms are equal. That's for sure, we're intrigued by a new technology. It's called RAS. It stands for a recirculating aquaculture systems, the new farms are built on land and the fish are raised indoors and a completely controlled environment. And because they never touched the ocean are exposed to those diseases, they don't have to be treated with antibiotics. And the advantages of these systems are that they can recycle almost all of the water they use. And then they're superior fresh in Wisconsin, which is intriguing because in this facility, the salmon array is solely in freshwater. And because of that, that water can be reused and in fact, is used at Superior fresh to grow leafy greens in an adjacent facility. So, while they are raising salmon on one half the raising vegetables on the other. The disadvantage, however, is cost. You know, these RAS farms have to buy their own land build their own buildings, whereas the people using open net pen technology, they're using the public space in order to run their business. And it's an enormously profitable one.

CK: Is there some way to get labeling to solve this? I mean, I worked on this years ago, but it didn't get very far. But is there some way to to have consistent labeling by the FDA, for example,

DF: Very often, the only label you see on the farmed salmon in your market is fresh Atlantic salmon. Oftentimes, it doesn't even say that it's farmed. And when it does say it's farmed, it will say simply Norway, or Chile, or Faroe Islands, and even that information is not helpful to the consumer. We were in Toronto not long ago and we went into this very upscale market. It's sort of the Canadian equivalent of Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, if you will. And we walked in, we noticed a sign that said great big letters, sustainable seafood, and all we saw in the sustainable seafood counter there and it was big, was fresh Atlantic salmon, not labeled farmed, not identified where it came from. So, being investigative reporters, we grabbed the manager, and we asked Barry to come over and explain to us where did this come from? And he said, I don't know. Let me go find out. He came back with a sheet of paper. And he told us very proudly well, this is from the Ingles family farm on the Bay of Fundy. And we said well, that's interesting because the Ingles family farm is part of Northern Sea farms, Northern Sea Farms happens to be owned by Maui, the world's largest salmon producer out of Norway, they produce 20% of the world's salmon. And by the way, Barry, we said, in 2019 10 Northern Harvest Seafood farms in Newfoundland lost 2.6 million salmon in one incident. And so that's the family farm where you're getting this.

CC: But you know, sometimes you're lucky. And you we went out to dinner that night, we were eating in a Lebanese restaurant and and on the menu was land based salmon. And we asked again, the manager, how he came to have this fish and he said, I wouldn't buy anything else. That's the only responsible healthy salmon that I will serve my customers. So, there is a movement and an interest out there from consumers to do this, right. And now it's up to government and industry to act on this so that consumers can make responsible decisions, because you can't make a responsible decision without the information on which to base it.

CK: You guys have been around, you know, the government, as you said, the FDA almost does nothing in this area. So, do you have any inkling of hope or a way forward to actually get this fixed?

CC: Okay, I apologize for being Canadian in my sunny ways.

CK: Well, somebody's got to do it.

CC: So yes, there are ways forward and we're seeing things happen around the world. One great example, we think we hope anyway, is a UK based charity called Wild Fish. And they have begun a program to convince chefs and markets in the hospitality sector to take salmon off the menu, simply remove it. (Well, that's a good idea) And that may be the answer if people will not eat it. If there's no market for it, why would the business go on as it is?


DF: Yeah. And we also see some positive signs from some governments, Chris, you can go up and down the west coast of the United States, from California, all the way up to Washington State and then to Alaska and find that open net fish farms on the water are banned. And so that is some progress. There's a long way to go but it can be done. We have to harness the pocketbooks of people who eat what is the most popular fish in America a decade ago, salmon became more popular than tuna. And so, what we have done is we do eat land raised salmon from a couple of places here in Nova Scotia where we're lucky enough to be able to get it but we're also trying to eat a little ways down the food chain, you can find omega free fatty acids and mackerel, and herring and anchovies and mussels. There are alternatives.

CK: Yeah, I think, just in conclusion, though, the problem is you walk into a supermarket where most people do their shopping. They have 30,000 or more skews, right? In every decision, you know, buying this asparagus buying that lettuce, buying those carrots buying this fish, all of which have a backstory, right. And so, the food choices that confront us are innumerable and complicated. And I think your job and our job is is to just provide some simple clarity. But this has been fascinating. I mean, I I didn't know most of this, and I will only be eating wild caught salmon if I can get it. Doug and Catherine, thank you so much. It's been really interesting and also a pleasure. Thank you.

CC: Thank you for having us. And thank you for highlighting this really important subject.

DF: Thanks very much.

CK: Call me a pessimist but I have zero faith in any industry in America that raises and slaughters animals for food is ever going to be meaningfully regulated. Once you think of an animal's food, large scale animal husbandry just goes out the window. Carnivores and I am one must hold two seemingly opposite ideas. The first is moral, accepting the notion of raising and killing animals for meat. And the second, all animals deserve certain inalienable rights to minimize suffering. An animal Bill of Rights is not a new idea, but I think it's a good one. Maybe it’s time has finally come. You're listening to Milk Street radio coming up. Dan Pashman invites us to a picnic. That's up after the break. I'm Christopher Kimball and you're listening to Milk Street Radio. Now it's time to chat with JM Hirsh about this week's recipe hot and sour soup with chicken and mushrooms. JM how are you?

JM Hirsch: I'm doing great.

CK: You and I both have been to Thailand, your trip was more recent than mine but the passion for hot for sour for sweet for savory for spicy, is really unique. And especially so I think when you talk about a hot and sour soup, that's essentially chicken soup. So, their take on chicken soup is like nobody else's right?

JMH: Oh my God, it was simply amazing. And the woman I was working with Rawadee Yenchujit she struggled, frankly, to come up with an English word that would capture the flavor experience I was about to have in this bowl of soup. And we spent about a half an hour googling until we finally settled on a word that's frankly going to shock you brain freeze. That was the best we could come up with was you're going to experience brain freeze, which of course makes absolutely no sense to an American until I tried it. And this chicken soup was simply one of the best chicken soups I've ever eaten because it was just a cascade of intense, amazing flavor combination of lemongrass and galangal, which is a relative of ginger and maca root lime leaves and garlic and shallots and lime juice and fish sauce. And so many crushed chilies. It was just an explosion of citrus and savory and salty and spicy and meaty. And it was just outrageous. And it came together in about 30 minutes. And again, it's that kind of Thai focus on these high flavor potent ingredients that do all the work the cooking for you. And it was just outrageously good.

CK: You know the other thing about this I love and this is true of a lot of cultures is we're not dealing with chicken stock or broth. They start with water, but they make their own quote unquote stock or broth because of the high flavor ingredients they put into the water. Right.

JMH: Yeah, you know, and it's it's such a sensible, frankly way of cooking that you let the ingredients create their own broth and when you start with such wonderful ingredients, you don't need to work hard to develop a lot of flavor even when your primary components as in this soup, were just chicken breast and mushrooms which you know, let's face it on their own tend to be kind of a blank canvas. This was just one of the most intensely flavored soups I've ever tasted, and it was built as you say from water.

CK: JM Thank you hot and sour soup with chicken and mushrooms or further adventures in the world of chicken soup. Thanks.

JMH: Thank you. You can get the recipe for hot and sour soup with chicken and mushrooms at Milk Street

CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Right now my co-host Sara Moulton and I will be answering a few more of your kitchen questions.

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who is calling?

Caller: Hi Sara. This is Maggie Cooper in Colorado Springs.

SM: Hi, Maggie, how can we help you today?

Caller: Well, I have a daughter who is a huge pasta lover and she recently found out that she needs to stay away from gluten. So, I've tried making pasta for her out of 100% almond flour and the one I tried has no Xanthan gum added as that is something else that she needs to avoid. So my pasta was honestly it was pretty gross. So, I'm just wondering if either of you can suggest something else that I could add to this flour or other flours like it that would help stabilize it so that I can make a decent pasta for her.

SM: You're such a sweet mom making homemade pasta. Let's just start there. (thank you) Really, really nice to do. You know a route you might want to go is to look to rice flour and tapioca starch Asian noodles. (Oh), because that probably would work. I'm sure there are recipes online for making homemade rice noodles. I mean, let's face it, pasta doesn't have a ton of flavor. It's all about the sauce. But there certainly is sort of a you know mouthfeel with wheat-based pasta. So, your daughter may not like it as much but you could still put the same kind of sauces on it and maybe that would work. I don't know. Chris, what do you think?

CK: Soba noodles. Most of them in the supermarket do have wheat flour. But you can buy soba noodles that are all buckwheat flour, which I love that, I think probably solves that problem. There's also a brand that I used to buy a long time ago, but it's available in most supermarkets. It's a gluten free pasta. It looks a little bit like soba, but it's darker. But it's actually pretty good. It has pretty good

SM: Xanthan Gum in it though?

CK: I don't know you'd have to check the box it is gluten free. I agree. I would never try to make it because it's going to be too hard. I just buy a noodle that has rice flour or buckwheat flour in it and check the box for ingredients to make sure there's nothing else, but gluten free pasta was actually pretty good.

Caller: I agree it is. I will give both of these things to try. I think it's great.

CK: And if you do make it yourself. Sarah's right that there are starches, tapioca starch, potato starches used different kinds of rice flours, all those things are used in gluten free and I'm sure one of the gluten free cookbooks has a pasta recipe. (Yeah) But you know, this is one of the cases where I would just buy it because I'm not sure it's worth the effort to do it. Once it's once a year. Okay, Maggie, thank you very much.

Caller: Thank you. Yeah, bye.

SM: Bye. Bye.

Caller: Bye. Bye.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Sara and I want to solve your toughest culinary challenges. Call us anytime 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Randall from Takoma Park, Maryland.

CK: How are you?

Caller: I'm doing great.

CK: How can we help you?

Caller: Couple of years ago, I went to Cincinnati and I had goetta for the first time and I really liked it. So, I came home. I started trying to make it.

CK: This is that oatmeal thing you're talking about?

Caller: Yeah, yeah. Goetta’s oatmeal-based scrapple. (Okay). And I'm having a hard time getting it to consistently set up. I've tried it six or seven times now. And only once I got it almost right. I don't know what I did. To get it almost right

CK: Can you just tell us just briefly give us the recipe just in broad strokes.

Caller: So, eight cups of boiling water, three cups of steel cut, or pinhead oatmeal. Simmer that covered for two hours during a lot and I use the heat diffuser. Then I add one pound of ground beef, one pound of ground pork and one diced onion, some salt and simmer it for another hour to hour and a half until it looks like it's thick enough to set up. Now I poured into the pans, and it just doesn't set up.

CK: Are you using exactly the same brand of steel cut oats.

Caller: I've tried three different brands it didn't make any difference.

CK: One thing you might try, and this is how I do what mill was still cut is I will take a cup or one measure of oats and three measures of water or maybe two and a half, bring it to a simmer on top of the stove, put the top on and leave it overnight. And then the next morning I wake up and then I'll add more liquid and heat it up and it only takes about 10 or 15 minutes to get it to the consistency you want that way of cooking the oatmeal first and getting it to really absorb the liquid properly and getting the right texture. You might have a better chance getting the texture right if you do that separately, then you can add everything else and finish cooking.

Caller: Oh, okay. So let it soak overnight first.

CK: Bring it up to a boil. Take it off the heat put the tarp on let it sit overnight. At that point, you can check the texture. I think this probably needs a really thick texture. Right?

Caller: Right, Yeah, yeah it does because you want to be able to slice it off and fry it up to get a nice crisp outside. So,

CK: Sara?

SM: No, I think that's a brilliant suggestion. What is the ratio of liquid to oatmeal?

Caller: Eight cups to three cups of oatmeal.

SM: And Chris, you're suggesting you use instead what ratio?

CK: Well, I'm just talking about the way you make oatmeal. He wants it really thick. So, you might start off

SM: even less, even less liquid.

CK: He has a little less than three to one. I would do two and a half cups of water a cup of still cut oats. Try that and use that as a base and then continue with the recipe. Yeah, at least you're going to get the oats properly hydrated and you can check the texture before you add the other ingredients

SM: That's brilliant.

Caller: Right and without them burning onto the bottom of the pan. Yeah, that’s great

CK: And it's a great way to make oatmeal by the way of any kind.

SM: No muss no fuss.

Caller: Yes. And it makes four pounds of it so I'd like it to turn out correctly.

CK: Yeah, you think?

SM: Yeah, no this is great.

CK: Okay, four pounds and four hours later right

SM: So, what he said Chris is right. But here as usual, I'm going to ask you Randall, please let us know how that goes.

Caller: Okay. All right

CK: Randall take care. That's a good one.

Caller: Okay, thank you.

SM: Bye

CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. It's time to find out what Dan Pashman is thinking about this week. Hey, Dan, what's going on?

Dan Pashman: Well, Chris, the weather is warming up. And I'm a little frustrated. Because, you know, this time of year, I feel like food media and social media. People get very amped up for grilling season. But what about picnic season? People aren't talking enough about picnicking.

CK: Well, James Beard as you probably well know, was a huge fan of picnicking. Because as a kid, they used to go to the seaside with his mother, and they, they bring the the oysters and the sandwiches and the picnic baskets. So yeah, I agree.

DP: I mean, that's lovely. And I think you've kind of proven my point, because I believe that memory of James Beard as a child is probably going to be close to 100 years ago.

CK: And for me, too. That's so much fun.

DP: So I think that for people who live in cities, there's still some picnicking, you know, in public parks and things, people who have limited outdoor space where they live. But I think that for those of us who have are in suburban or rural areas, the picnic is a lost art. And I think that we need to bring back picnics, Chris, you know, like you sure you can throw a couple of sandwiches in a cooler, bring it to the beach, but that's not a picnic.

CK: Well, I think that's a good point. I mean, we've gone from the Victorian age where there was 12 different forks for, you know, 10 different things. And picnics. Were very serious back then. That's a good point. I mean, the only picnicking I do is when I go out hunting, right. So, I got a sandwich and a tangerine and an apple and a bar chocolate. And that's about as Alfresco as I get in food world.

DP: Do you have a go to picnic sandwich?

CK: What I really like is I’ll roast something, you know, some kind of roast tenderloin, whatever. Thinly slice it and I'd like a combination of sort of a sweet chutney on one side. And something a little spicy on the other (nice) but you can't put tomato and lettuce in it, obviously, because it's in your hunting jacket. So that's all just bread and meat, the original sandwich right in beer halls

DP: The way the Earl of Sandwich would have done it but that sounds very practical. I feel like there's a few guiding principles if you're going to picnic. First is you want as you suggested foods you can eat with your hands. Right? You don't want to start bringing up plates and cutlery sandwiches aside, Chris, what do you think is the best picnic entree?

CK: I mean, fried chicken is a classic. (Yes) Yeah, a really good southern buttermilk fried chicken would be high on my list.

DP: Okay, well, that was the right answer. You got that right. I want us to think of ways that we can be more Culinarily interesting, while still being convenient. So, for instance, one option is you can make a dish any kind of a dish that might require a fork or knife and pack it in individual containers. So, each person takes their lid off and they can eat from their container. (That's a good idea) that opens up a whole world of possibilities. I mean, ____ is now picnic food with that. I mean, that's anything that you can put in a container and portion it individual servings is fantastic.

CK: Yeah, that's, that's a good idea.

DP: The other suggestion I have is to do what I call a tooth picnic. Tooth picnic is when every single food is precut, bite sized. And every person gets one toothpick.


CK: That's a lot of really tidy sandwiches,

DP: Whether they're going to be sandwiches that can be just cubes of steak and cheese and fruit and chocolate. It can be anything you want. It just has to be bite sized, and you don't need to cut it up.

CK: Okay, I'm going to pull Downton Abbey on you now, right? They come back from the fox hunt. And they have these tables, and they have champagne, and they have all this stuff. I mean, I crave just once in my life. Wouldn't it be nice to do a really, you know, high Victorian picnic. I mean, really nice cutlery. I mean, the problem is, you don't have anybody to schlep it for you. But instead of like toothpick things, I would just like once to do it, right.

DP: So, you want to like arrive at a table in the woods and have like a 16-course meal with 18 pieces of silverware set for you.

CK: I'd like the idea of some formality. You know, a sense of you can be formal outside. Because I think the death of civilization this is I'm going slightly overboard here you know is the lack of formality. Everything's too informal. Everything's too casual. Everything is every day and I think once in a while I take all your points and I think in general, you're right. But every couple of years, like let's you know, pull out all the stops and do it up right.

DP: So, you want table you want at least like a tablecloth.

CK: Yeah, here's what I would do. I would volunteer myself to go out and set up the table the tablecloth whole thing and then the people hike or whatever they do, and they get to the place, and there's crystal glassware and there's great wine, and there's great food. And maybe there's a grill setup. I mean, that would be extraordinary.

DP: Well, that sounds lovely. Chris, if you'll set it up, I'll come. So, Chris Kimball's message to you today is save civilization have a fancy picnic.

CK: Look at the end of the day. It's the experience, right? So so what you want is when you finish with a picnic, you just felt like you were in a two-hour French movie from 1965 where everybody's doing strange things in the forest. I think that's what you want. You want an out of this world experience. And by transferring the eating to the woods or the seashore I think that's really, you know, that's the thing. It's the experience, right?

DP: I think that's right, Chris, and since you so generously offered to provide that experience to me, I'm just going to start wandering the woods of Vermont, calling your name and I'll find you there and I assume a table will be set.

CK: Yeah, I'll give you some GPS coordinates. Then I'm sure you won't get lost though. Dan Pashman, the man wandering the woods looking for a picnic. Thank you, sir.

DP: Thanks, Chris.

CK: That was Dan Pashman. He's the host of The Sportful podcast and also inventor of pasta shape, cascatelli. That's it for today. You can find all of our episodes on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. You can learn more about Milk Street at 177 Milk There you can become a member and get full access to every recipe, access to all live stream cooking classes, free standard shipping from the Milk Street store and more. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week with more food stories and kitchen questions and thanks as always for listening.

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH, co-founder Melissa Baldino, executive producer Annie Sensabaugh. Senior Editor Melissa Allison, producer Sarah Clapp, Associate Producer Caroline Davis with production help from Debby Paddock additional editing by Sidney Lewis audio mixing by Jay Allison and Atlantic public media and Woods Hole Massachusetts. The music by toubab Krewe, additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX.