Baby’s a Tuna, and It’s Feeling Blue

Bluefin tuna are being hunted to extinction. They have already been reduced to a small fraction of the global numbers of a hundred ago. They may disappear from the Atlantic Ocean by 2012. The average weight of those caught has already been dropping. Other kinds of tuna and related fish are also being slaughtered, but the bluefish will be the first to go under.

Bluefin tuna are the genus Thunnus in the family Scombridae, with several species, among them Thunnus atlanticus (blackfin tuna), Thunnus orientalis (Pacific bluefin), and Thunnus thynnus (Northern bluefin).

The bluefin have a big problem: they taste very good. Tuna have been eaten for centuries. Indeed, the word “tuna” comes from ancient Greek. Canned tuna greatly increased the consumption, but what is finally terminating the bluefin is sushi. Four fifths of the bluefin tuna consumption is for sushi and sashimi. Sushi is seaweed-coated vinegar rice wrapped around a morsel of food such as raw fish, and sashimi is the raw fish by itself.

Bluefin tunas taste good because unlike most fish, they are homeothermic (warm blooded); they metabolize their temperature, like mammals and birds. With a higher body temperature than the surrounding cold water, tuna have a large ocean range. The warmth also enables tuna to swim fast (“tuna” in Greek means “to rush”), which enables them to catch more prey. So bluefin tuna grow up to a size of up to four meters. Continue reading

Racial Profiling at its Best

Here is a story and a sociological essay all rolled into one.

My son the recent college graduate only thinks about cooking. I encourage his inclination, of course. Compulsion does not work. Most people do well only what they like to do. Besides, I am an immigrant from France. Scabs of French pessimism stick to my brain. I don’t know how long the current economic crisis will last. In Japan, there were ten dead years, a full decade lost. I tell myself that cooks never go hungry and neither do those who are close to them. I adore my son’s girlfriend. I want her to have enough to eat, happen what may. I used to work in kitchens myself, around the 18th century. I believe that even the leavings from the average restaurant kitchen will keep you pleasantly fat forever. Go for it, I tell him.

My son has been cooking part-time since he was a teenager and throughout the embarrassingly long years it took him to complete his political science major. He has experience in a variety of fairly humble kitchen positions. I also think he has some talent. I don’t say this because he is my son. I am a mean father by California standards, a stern figure more or less from the Old Testament, you might say. Not long ago, I thought my son was worse than worthless. I am not afraid to be “judgmental,” bet on it! But he has changed. His brain has caught up with his glands at last. Having finished college, he is naturally looking for a full-time position, or better. He is meeting with an obstacle we did not expect but that was expectable if we had thought about it: He is not Mexican.

In California, where I live, everywhere in California, I think, during the fat cow years, immigrants from Mexico took over nearly all the kitchen jobs, Those are mostly hard jobs, stressful jobs offering low pay. The native-born young shunned them in favor of retail “sales associates” positions that are easy and allow for a fair margin of laziness although they don’t pay any better. The Mexican take-over began with Taco Bells and private tamales stands, and, naturally, taco shops. But immigrants are predictable. Many went considerably further. Continue reading