Corn and Crab Cakes with Cilantro and Lime Sour Cream /

Think, then eat gently

A couple of weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sustainable Foods Institute—and my head has been swimming ever since.

(I’ve also had an insatiable craving for seafood, hence the Corn and Crab Cakes pictured here.)

You probably know the Monterey Bay Aquarium as a wonderful place to ooh and aah over mesmerizing jellyfish and adorable otters. And that it is.

But it’s also Seafood Watch, the app, pocket guide, and all-around authority for sustainable seafood choices. It’s Cooking for Solutions, events showcasing sustainably-minded chefs and restaurants. And it’s tons more behind-the-scenes stuff having to do with scientific research, public policy, and conserving the oceans.

Sustainable Foods Institute is one of those things. A two-day mash-up of food writers, scientists, policy wonks, and food producers, the idea is to explore what’s happening in food sustainability—and to generate ink about it.

Corn and Crab Cakes with Cilantro and Lime Sour Cream /

Session after session, I listened to scientists, doctors, journalists, policymakers, researchers, and influencers—including Robin McDowell, part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press team that exposed slave labor in the seafood industry; Janet Napolitano, yeah that Janet Napolitano, former Secretary of Homeland Security and now president of the University of California; and Louie Psihoyos, director of the Academy Award-winning documentary “The Cove”—talk about everything from seafood traceability, aquaculture, plastics in the ocean, climate change, and food security to food carbon footprints, using algae to produce cooking oil, eating indigenously, and the drought.

To name just a few of the mind-boggling topics tangled up in producing delicious, healthy food without decimating everything and everyone in the process.

Can you blame me for wanting to soothe my overwhelm with seafood? Luckily, between sessions we ate and drank on a patio overlooking the water. When your head is about to explode with beyond-your-pay-grade science, staring at the Monterey Bay—both quietly calming yet alive with cawing birds, swaying kelp, and even a few otters—is just what the doctor ordered.

Monterey Bay /

As I listened, I yearned for someone to just tell me the answer. Should I eat more fish? Less protein? Avoid plastic packaging? Take fewer showers? Buy organic?

But—fortunately or unfortunately—it’s not that simple.

While there’s no one thing to do, there’s a lot you and I can do. And I think it all boils down to this.

Don’t be a doofus.

Be conscientious. Think. Try to make choices that tread lightly. Eat—and drink and shop and rally and question and encourage others to do the same—gently.

Crab Cakes—made, of course, from sustainable sources—anyone?

Corn and Crab Cakes with Cilantro and Lime Sour Cream /

(Disclosure: The Sustainable Foods Institute hosted me for the conference, but there was no agreement, nor any compensation, to write about it.)

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