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  • Writer's pictureMarissa Bialecki

Interview with Chef and Cookbook Author Barton Seaver

Updated: Dec 24, 2018

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I enjoyed hearing Barton Seaver’s speech on reclaiming dinner and the importance of sustainable seafood. As a sidenote, the dinner at the event was also delicious (hello bread dipped in anchovy-garlic oil!) and many of the recipes for the dishes featured at the dinner are in Barton’s upcoming cookbook, For Cod and Country.


Before I dive into the interview, I had the chance to flip through Barton’s cookbook. It seems that most of my friends are intimidated by seafood–they’re unsure how to cook it, what to serve it with and it’s easier to just order it at a restaurant. Then there are also the poor suckers who have only had frozen fish sticks and think that fish automatically tastes and smells fishy. So I think this is a good cookbook for both of those audiences, as well as the seafood aficionados like myself. It’s organized by season (yes, fish have “seasons” for when they’re caught), which is very helpful for the home cook. There are a ton of recipes that will push you to try new fish and explore the classic salmons and tunas that we’re all familiar with.

Plus the cookbook has a wide array of side dishes to pair nicely with seafood. It hits stores on May 3rd, but you can order your advance copy here.


Without further ado, here’s my short interview with Barton Seaver:

Marissa: What can consumers do to promote sustainable seafood? What is their role? Barton: Consumers can really create demand. Stores will carry whatever customers want, so we have to drive stores to carry other seafood. We have to diversify our demand. In the U.S., we eat about 10 species of fish, but the ocean offers so much more. Consumer demand is so narrowly focused. It’s our responsibility and opportunity to explore.


We also have to switch to small, but enjoyable portions. We’re never going to save the ocean by eating sustainable seafood alone. There should be a balance with vegetables, and it all has to be delicious. Also we have to re-examine our sustainable options, such as canned pink salmon and sardines. These are low-cost solutions that are easily available to everyone.


M: Can you talk a little bit about writing For Cod and Country?

B: I really enjoyed the process of writing the book and going from chef to cook. Chef is a managing title. Cooking is about satisfying elemental, fundamental, basic needs. I got to occupy the emotional space of my own kitchen at home. I had never developed “home ec” skills, so I had to learn to plan a week’s worth of meals and stock a pantry. Interesting chefs write their narratives as a menu and all of the dishes work together to tell the chef’s story. As a cook, it’s a much slower narrative. You might only have one dish for dinner, but it’s a story that’s told night after night. It was a very different way of looking at food.


M: Why did you choose to write the book by seasons? B: As I was writing the book, I found that the seasonality of seafood is important. Just like other produce, we expect to have whatever we want available whenever we want. Often there are farm-raised fish that are available all year round. But the seasonality is about what’s fresh. It’s about being nimble as a cook and trying different things based on what’s available. We shouldn’t be forcing recipes onto a natural system.


Check out the National Geographic links to read more about Barton’s work with National Geographic, find information about sustainable seafood, and watch his show, Cook-Wise.

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