Something’s A Bit Fishy At Many of Our Restaurants

This evening KARE11 News had one of the best investigative reports I have seen in quite some time.   What they did was go to several Twin Cities area restaurants to order the Walleye on the menu.   Here in Minnesota, Walleye is the king of fish and those of us in the Gopher State consume more Walleye than anyone else.   I guess you could say, besides our lutefisk, we sure do love our Walleye dinners when dining out.

But as the investigative team found out there are many restaurants that are not serving exactly what they promote.   In fact, “Canadian Walleye” as promoted on the menu could actually be something much different…and certainly not Walleye at all.   The substitute fish is known as European Zander or sometimes also referred to as Pike Perch.   The bottom line is those of us who like to eat Walleye when dinning out might be a victim of fraud, or I dare say at least a form of bait and switch.
         The investigators went to each of these restaurants and took samples of the fish for analysis at a DNA lab.   In most other respects, the fish are quite similar except for the fact a Zander is not a Walleye.   And when a person sits down to dine on a fine meal of Walleye they expect to get what they order…but that has not been happening at quite a few restaurants.   See additional details of the news story by clicking here.

In Minnesota we take great pride in our fisheries and Walleye ranks number one among all anglers.   So it only stands to reason that some unscrupulous restaurants would attempt to capitalize on the fact that Zander sells for several dollars a pound less than Walleye.   It was reported that over the course of a year a busy restaurant could realize an extra $100,000 in profit by serving a fish that, up until today, many of us would not even question its legitimacy.   But no more.

I think back to the several times I have ordered Walleye recently and now I wonder if it was legitimate.   In one particular case I ordered Walleye and got such a big fillet that I could only eat about half of what was served.   It was very delectable, as I recall…but now it haunts me a bit because I remember thinking at the time that for this to be a Walleye fillet it would have been taken from a very mature fish.   Certainly not a fish that I would have kept had I been angling for it.

What’s going on here is a case of restaurants using fancy names to do nothing but fool their customers.   In many cases the practice may be illegal by making false claims.   In other cases the names are so ambiguous that the impression they give restaurant guests is something quite different from reality.   Until I heard this report I would not have even questioned that the fish I was being served was Walleye.

Here’s a perfect example of restaurants playing games with names.   How many times can you recall sitting down with a menu in hand and reading “Walleyed Pike” as a dinner entrée?   It’s a popular way of describing the fish that most of us adore.   But the truth is the Walleye is actually a member of the perch family and has nothing to do with being related to Pike (members of this family include Northerns, Musky, etc.).   Now that I think of it, however, perhaps what these restaurants are sometimes trying to tell us is Walleyed Pike in nothing more than Zander (sometimes called Pike Perch).   Confusing?   You bet…but thanks to the KARE11 report they’ve exposed this hidden game of restaurants acting a little bit fishy when it comes to the truth.

Is serving Zander such a bad thing?…heck no.   If it tastes quite similar to Walleye that is one thing.   But lying and cheating your customers out of a dinning experience under false pretenses is wrong…and I am glad this news channel finally exposed this terrible practice.   In the future, I’m guessing this shake-up of the restaurant industry is going to force them to be much more honest with their customers…and that is a practice that in my opinion is long overdue.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Associated Press Article Makes Unnecessary Association

Take a look at these headlines attached to the following Associated Press article by a Minneapolis StarTribune headlines writer:

“DWI patrol bags 90 drivers during deer-opener weekend”

Based on that headliner, what would you assume?   Perhaps that hunters like to drink?   Perhaps that the deer opening weekend here in Minnesota is a time for gun toting individuals to imbibe in a few after the hunt?   Maybe even during the hunt?   When I first read this headline I was stopped in my tracks thinking that maybe, just maybe law enforcement was cracking down and targeting hunters.

No matter what type of spin you put on it…I truly believe the intent with that headlines is to pollute the public’s perception that deer hunters in Minnesota are a bunch of wild, boozing-it-up sort of nimrods.   Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth for most of us, but to discover this you would have to read on in the article.

“Minnesota law enforcement officers bagged more than 90 drivers for violations including open bottle and underage drinking over the deer opener weekend.

More than a dozen city, county and state law enforcement agencies in Hennepin and Ramsey counties participated in Operation NightCAP, which stands for “nighttime concentrated alcohol patrol.” In all they stopped 250 vehicles and arrested 31 people — 18 for driving while impaired.

State Patrol lieutenant Mark Peterson said every impaired driver they found was arrested and jailed on the spot.”

Hmmm…that was the entire article.   Did you read anything in there that stated the vehicles they pulled over were folks clad in blaze orange, or possibly with deer tied to their autos?   Nope.   They simply made the association that this crackdown occurred on the same weekend as the opener, yet a person would have to read the article to learn there was no newsworthy connection between hunters and drinking.

I guess what bothers me most about this is the power this headline writer has with the paper.   Think about it…how many times do you peruse the headlines of a paper without really reading the content of the article?   You can imagine how many non-hunters read this story and confirmed in their mind how hunters are nothing but a bunch of booze-loving individuals.   It is wrong of the paper to create this false perception.

I take exception to this form of blatant abuse of the media.   I personally believe that the headlines writer made a purposeful connection between the DWI crackdown and the Minnesota Deer Hunting Opener, when the two events apparently were not connected in some meaningful way.

What do you think the likelihood would have been to read headlines such as:  “DWI patrol bags 90 drivers during Mother’s Day weekend” or such as “DWI patrol bags 90 drivers during Independence Day weekend.”   Would motherhood or our patriotism make such a poignant statement as “deer-opener weekend?”   I don’t think so.

I’m not being overly sensitive about such things…I happen to believe the power of the pen can be a mighty sword, especially when it comes to abuse of that power by the media.   As sportsmen, we all need to do our part to uphold a positive public image so that other non-hunters can show us an amount of respect, if only by default.   But when you have subtle attacks such as this one…on the surface it might seem rather innocuous, but the damage it does to reinforce negative stereotypes of law-breaking hunters can be downright cruel and libelous to each of our sporting reputations.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Outdoor News: Letter to the Editor

With only two weeks left before Election Day the political spin is certainly in full swing. Turn on the television and you can’t go 15 minutes without listening to a political commercial. The radio is much the same way. Even Outdoor News, a weekly regional tabloid I subscribe to, is filled with letters supporting both candidates for president. No doubt about it emotions are running high and misinformation is running rampant during the waning moments of the 2004 presidential campaign.

Today I’m gleaning a few comments from the recent Letters to the Editor section of Outdoor News (October 19) made by supporters of candidate John Kerry. As an ardent supporter of George W. Bush, it seems to me to be a big folly how some of the statements being made by professed sportsmen can even lend support to John Kerry and his liberal ideology.

The comments (Outdoor News, Vol.37 No. 42, October 19, 2004):

“I’m sick and tired of all you sportsmen who think you have to vote Republican ‘just because.’ If any of you fools really believe that John Kerry is going to infringe on our right to bear arms you should wake up and smell the coffee….” Ted Erhart, Ramsey, MN.

“…John Kerry, at least, has high ratings from conservation and environmental groups, and has posted on his web site a Sportsman’s Bill of Rights, at the top of which is gun ownership.

Bush is an election-year conservationist. His first three years were a disaster. He needs to be fired! Period!” Russ Thornell, Forest Lake.

Here is my response as it was submitted to the editor of Outdoor News:

Difficult Decisions

An election approaches that requires some difficult decisions, especially if you lean Democrat and profess to be a sportsman. No matter how much passion spins the facts, a Kerry/Edwards victory will eventually result in the erosion of sportsman’s rights.

Ted from Ramsey urges us to “wake up and smell the coffee” if we think John Kerry will infringe on our rights in any way. Well, Ted, I hate to tell you this buddy, but trying to infringe on our gun rights has been one of the few accomplishments Kerry has achieved during his illustrious 20-year senate career. Perhaps if you weren’t so hung up worrying about what the NRA tells its members you’d have more time to confirm the pathetic voting record of your favorite candidate.

A candidate’s past performance is a far better indicator than relying on his future promises. Promises can easily be broken and are often made for ulterior motives. Past performance, on the other hand, shows a tendency to act in a certain manner.

I was also curious how Russ from Forest Lake seemed to regurgitate most of the talking points found in Kerry’s “Sportsman’s Bill of Rights.” Oddly enough, Kerry’s promises seem to be reassuring sportsmen he would not do anything to effect the way we all like to hunt and fish…sort of like Bush has demonstrated to us during the past four years of his presidency. The choice for this election is rather simple; do you trust unproven promises or do you trust past performance?

Certainly my heart goes out to sportsmen who are being encouraged by their unions, the media, their friends and others to vote for John Kerry on November 2nd. Sometimes it’s tough to balance out each of your beliefs when there is no perfect candidate, no matter on which side of the political fence you stand.

So go ahead and vote for John Kerry…but don’t delude yourself, and especially others, into believing that the Kerry/Edwards ticket is the best choice for sportsmen and their interests. John Kerry’s dismal senatorial track record along with his lame promises for the future tends to indicate otherwise.

Why else would The Humane Society of the United States refer to John Kerry as one of their “heroes” of congress? Is it possible this ardent anti-sportsman’s group knows something about John Kerry that those who wear political blinders would rather we didn’t all see?

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.