DREDG­ING UP LIES

When it comes to iden­ti­fy­ing hand-dived scal­lops there’s no pulling the wool over eyes Guy Grieve’s

Scottish Field - - CONTENTS -

Guy Grieve un­cov­ers a dis­tress­ing food fraud

“We’d been sub­jected to food fraud. The dived were in fact dredged

On the rather som­bre oc­ca­sion of my 45th birth­day it seemed a good idea for me to leave my dive fish­ing boat in the ca­pa­ble hands of my first mate as dark weather loomed and head over to Ed­in­burgh for a spe­cial din­ner with Juliet and our two sons. As usual the weather in the East was sparkling and dry com­pared to the winds and drama of the West coast. Ed­in­burgh felt up­beat and happy as it al­ways does. From the bedrock up Auld Reekie is al­ways a joy, as be­fits the birth­place of the Scot­tish En­light­en­ment. The mass of tourists had left and the city be­longed once more to her suc­cess­ful in­hab­i­tants. As you can prob­a­bly tell I was hugely en­joy­ing the con­trast be­tween my re­mote is­land base and the cap­i­tal. We headed for a rather brassy and con­fi­dent restau­rant which was maybe more to the boys’ taste than ours and found our­selves nicely placed with a very friendly waiter. Im­me­di­ately ‘hand-dived’ scal­lops shone out from the menu. Our two boys, so proud of how we fish, of course or­dered them. When they ar­rived I no­ticed that the meats were loose in the shells. That was not sur­pris­ing - many of our own cus­tomers buy our scal­lops prepped and out of their shells, then cook and pre­pare them in the shells, which we pro­vide separately. The scal­lops were large and juicy look­ing and the dish looked ap­petis­ing. How­ever, on first bite I knew they were not dived. The meat was too soft. This is a sign that they’ve been soaked. Dredged scal­lops are usu­ally soaked and washed for a while to elim­i­nate the grit and sand which is a con­se­quence of the dredg­ing process. The water is often lightly chlo­ri­nated too in or­der to in­crease shelf life and whiten the meats. I asked the waiter where they had come from. And with a sink­ing feel­ing heard that they were bought from a fish­mon­ger that I know has never bought dived scal­lops in any quan­tity. I per­sisted and asked if he could find out where they’d been caught. Our help­ful waiter went off to the kitchen and came back proudly declar­ing that their West Coast ori­gin was stated on the pack­ag­ing. This was now 100% con­fir­ma­tion that they’d been dredged. It was ut­terly de­press­ing. We’d been sub­jected to food fraud. The ‘dived’ were in fact dredged, and we’d eaten them. I looked around and saw peo­ple mer­rily tuck­ing into their scal­lops, feel­ing good about their re­spon­si­ble food choices and pay­ing a pre­mium for their sup­posed first-rate prove­nance. Sud­denly I felt as if I was there for my 85th birth­day. I felt in­cred­i­bly tired. Tired to find my­self swim­ming, yet again, against the end­less tide of com­mer­cial­ism. Our boys were shocked – they are still naïve enough to think that if you read some­thing on a menu it must be true. Food fraud is one of the most in­ti­mate forms of ly­ing; cyn­i­cal busi­nesses make dis­hon­est mar­gins and then pat them­selves on the back as peo­ple lit­er­ally swal­low their lies. A false­hood be­comes part of their in­ti­mate phys­i­ol­ogy. I tweeted about this de­press­ing dis­cov­ery and An­drew Fair­lie, one of Scot­land’s great­est chefs, said I should name and shame the es­tab­lish­ment. I am not go­ing to. In­stead I am go­ing to at­tempt to ed­u­cate the own­ers about fish. This wild prod­uct can­not be man­u­fac­tured, so chefs need to be hon­est. If the gen­uine dived scal­lops can’t be bought in­struct the wait­ers to tell din­ers: ‘Sorry, our dived scal­lops are not in tonight and due to our ethics as a restau­rant we’re not pre­pared to buy in a dredged re­place­ment.’ Peo­ple will ac­cept this. The pub­lic want the truth, not shoddy short-ter­mist smoke screens. At the very least they could just be hon­est and say: ‘We’ve only got dredged to­day not dived – is that okay?’ Of all the food fraud out there I am most an­gered by the kind which claims the en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­tra pound from a wellinten­tioned pub­lic when re­ally the prod­uct has been gen­er­ated in a de­struc­tive or cruel man­ner. We left feel­ing a lit­tle blue but man­aged to gen­er­ate some cheer else­where. I’ll never eat there again and won­der if this is what they’re telling us about their scal­lops, what other short cuts are they tak­ing? Af­ter all if you see one rat in a farm­yard there’s al­most cer­tainly a nest nearby.

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