Aborted Attempt at 100-Mile Diet and Cod Stew

For several weeks, I have been trying to adhere to the 100-mile diet. As diets usually result in failure, I’m taking it one food group at a time. This week, we’re on to proteins, and in an effort to cut down on our red meat consumption, I have opted for a fish recipe. I’m also going to support sustainable fishing practices and follow Canada’s Seafood Guide. Biting off more than I can chew—probably.

(Have you ever bitten off more than you can chew? Tell us about it in the comments)

Unfortunately, the Guide doesn’t list any fish in the 100-mile radius surrounding Montreal. In fact, the only thing you can catch easily around our fine metropolis is a dose of something that is better not discussed while on the topic of food. We could always fish for lake trout, but while taking my kids fishing might be fun, there’s no guarantee we’d catch anything, except maybe someone’s eye.

Initially, I wanted to try the 100-mile diet because I saw that a lot of the supermarket fish and seafood products came from ports as far away as China, Thailand, India, and Russia, and the products don’t swim here—they are shipped in ice blocks. Not exactly my idea of fresh.

Anyway, I managed to unearth what appeared to be a tasty-looking cod stew recipe. I realize that even if cod is fished in Quebec, it probably comes from Baie Comeau, well beyond the 100-mile radius. Okay, so I start to bend the rules a little. There has to be cod fished in one of the maritime provinces.

At the fish store, I check the Guide only to find that it recommends West Coast cod to protect East Coast fish stocks.

I ask the fish store employee what kind of cod they have. There’s cod from Newfoundland and black cod from Alaska. I check my recipe for the quantity, and then order a pound and a half of black cod.

The employee tells me that if the recipe calls for cod, I should take the cod from the Rock, as black cod tastes more like Chilean sea bass. I show him the guide, but he disagrees. Apparently, there are some fisheries where cod is still fished. I insist that I want the black cod. He shakes his head in dismay and says, “Okay, but that’s a whole different animal.”

Anyway, the fish store employee was right, even if  I used my best maritime accent to try to convince the fish otherwise, it did not taste like cod, and my stew was a fairly pricey culinary disaster.

Both my daughter and husband grimaced after the first bite. My daughter feigned illness and asked to be excused. My husband said he’d had a big lunch, and I chose to eat it just to show my mettle…but it was lumpy, with the consistency of a runny egg, and the taste was way too fishy, but not in a cod kinda way….

Okay, it was vile, and for the rest of the week, my daughter asked whose turn it was to cook dinner.

Although my first attempt at eating locally and supporting sustainable fishing was unsavory, ergo unsuccessful, I did learn something: fish store employees know a hell of a lot more about fish than I do.


C. McKane | April 28, 2009 at 10:28 PM


at least you followed a recipe and took something positive away (trust the fishmonger ;)

and kudos for eating it yourself...
every time i cook (i mean when it comes out badly) I force myself to eat it!

Anonymous | April 28, 2009 at 11:26 PM

I don't mind fishing, but I don't like killing them when I do fluke a Catfish, or Jew on the line, & both are fresh water from our small rivers & streams. I eat Salmon from a tin, mainly from Alaska, then all of our tinned tuna comes from Thiland, so Seldom sit down to a fresh ocean fish meal. My daughter will not eat fresh fish & hubby is opposite, won't touch the tinned stuff.

Heather | April 29, 2009 at 6:57 AM

Sage Rose,
Cooking is just another form of R&D. You have to eat it to know what to change for next time, but it was particularly difficult this time around. Thanks for dropping by. Heather

Heather | April 29, 2009 at 7:00 AM

Fish is a tricky beast. There is a lot of variation in taste from one species to the next. We eat a lot of Rainbow Trout from Newfoundland, which I love. Must admit that tuna from the can still tempts me from time to time. Nice to hear from you.

Anonymous | April 29, 2009 at 11:52 AM

I commend you on your bravery.

Heather | April 29, 2009 at 6:30 PM

Bravery? For eating my own cooking? Some might agree with you.

Rachel | April 29, 2009 at 11:22 PM

I think you're doing great. You've found a fish shop with well labeled produce and an employee that knows what he is doing. Now do it backwards - go into your fish shop, ask what is fresh and local and lovely at the moment, then ask them for suggestions on how to cook it.

It is *much* easier that way I promise. Oh, and I think 100-ish miles is just fine ;)

Heather | April 30, 2009 at 8:21 PM

Well, thank you Rachel. You've put quite a positive spin on things. Yes, after my experience, I did make the fish store my starting point.

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