By David Wantz, University of Indianapolis
From pipe to plate
On the Chesapeake Bay, people who crabbed or fished or dredged are not called fishermen, but watermen. I am descended from watermen. I jealously guard my crab knife from relatives who forgot theirs when they come to eat steamed crabs. I can tell a Chincoteague from any other oyster because it just tastes like the Bay.
And a Rockfish is not just a striped bass, but the exalted, white-fleshed beauty that is making its way back from a devastating decline. Folks used to say there was so much mercury in the Potomac that the Rockfish would rise and fall with the temperature. Not being able to eat Rockfish was a strong lesson that the ecosystem was more than just a textbook word.
When I talk to my family in Maryland, there will be at some time a mention of the health of the Bay and how the oysters or crabs are running. Because it drains the region as far north as upstate New York and nearly the breadth of Pennsylvania, the Bay collects all the fertilizer, pharmaceuticals, sewage and industrial waste of the east coast. All of that run-off affects the food the watermen try to harvest. Mess with the ecosystem and you mess with your food supply.
Drive around the counties surround the Bay and you will see a constant reminder of the connection between our actions and their effect on our food supply. At street-level, there are stenciled warnings on the storm grates saying that the pipe beneath leads directly to the Bay. It makes you think about what you pour out or toss out.
Reading about the oil in the Gulf, it is not so hard to understand the fear of devastation the folks in that region feel. We are connected to our food. Maybe we need a stenciled sign on our gas tanks, too. WARNING: This pipe leads directly to your plate.
Maybe you have some thoughts about food as well. Let me invite you to share them during the 15th annual Spirit and Place Civic Festival this year. The theme is Food for Thought and will run from November 5 through 14. I am David Wantz and I am a member of the S&P board. I hope you will join us.