Shrimplessness, March 15 & 16, 2002

American Flatbread – Flatbread Kitchen


Friday and Saturday, March 15 and 16, 2002

Tonight’s menu and baking are dedicated to




            When I was a little boy my mother would sometimes buy, for a treat, little shrimp cocktails in glass containers, three to a package, complete with cocktail sauce. I loved the taste of the tomato and horseradish and lemon, and the texture of the shrimp was like nothing else. Afterward, the glass container became a juice glass, which I always reached for first.

            That was a long time ago; forty years or more. Shrimp was a rare luxury for a middle class kid. That is less so now.

            Starting in the 70’s and accelerating in the affluence of the 80’s, the once pricey and exotic shrimp became a virtual commodity in the international marketplace. Professional cooks at an ever-growing number of western restaurants found the versatile shrimp to be easy to work with and popular with customers. Throughout Europe, North America, and affluent communities in Asia and South America, the consumption of shrimp exploded. As demand exceeded supply, the world’s shrimp boats stripped the oceans of wild populations. In the face of dwindling harvests, shrimp farms were established throughout the tropics. First thought to be an ecologically more sensitive and sustainable source of shrimp than wild caught, shrimp farming is now recognized as an ecological and social disaster virtually everywhere it has been tried. Industrial shrimp farming relies on intensive applications of antibiotics and pesticides, some of which are prohibited in the US because of their known carcinogen content. In addition, shrimp farms destroy thousands of acres of coastal mangrove swamps, which are important to marine health. Finally, shrimp farming is disruptive to local economies and resources, causing social displacement and civil strife.

            A lot of the problem is simply demand. We are demanding more shrimp than the world can sustainably produce.

            For many years, shrimp has been a popular and effective topping at American Flatbread. Just like me, there are many shrimp lovers. But shrimp has crossed some line. I love its taste but can no longer support its process. So tonight we begin a journey to discover sustainable alternatives that celebrate the joys of the palate, respect you, our customers, and support a world our children will be glad to call home.




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