For swordfish, we’d joust

Landing swordfish old school

When I began cooking professionally in the early 1990s, no one talked about sustainable fishing. We were serving up swordfish like crazy, which is considered crazy today.

It was insanely popular at the time and a regular on menus all over town. In those days, the big deal was convincing our clientele to eat the fish medium-rare or, better still, rare, because it took so little to overcook and dry out the fish, and once that happened, no one was happy. Looking back, it’s staggering to see how far we’ve come when it comes to eating raw fish. …

As cooks, we never saw the whole fish, as we see it here. The fish was always divested of its sword long before it came to us. We would get foot-long blocks of it, often with its tough, metallic skin removed, deconstructed and detached from its whole self, primed for slicing off “steaks” in preparation for the grill.

This swordfish came from the Indian Ocean, and his captor is taking him to a market in Mogadishu, Somalia. And that sword is undoubtedly going to be quite a prize.

Seeing the fish in toto is so moving, particularly the dripping blood, which points to the life and death struggle that led to its capture.

Today, the only swordfish we should permit ourselves is harpoon- or handline-caught, from the Pacific or the North Atlantic, according to Ocean Wise, Canada’s fish sustainability experts.

Swordfish procured any other way is NR [Not Recommended], says Ocean Wise, because of the “bycatch of threatened and endangered species” that get caught in the nets.