13 Ways to Overeat (and Defeat) the Asian Carp

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You know the Show Boat refrain: "Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly..." Well, the Asian Carp certainly isn't humming along. Check out one of the many videos that show hundreds of these frenzied fish leaping as high as 10 feet into the air as a boat approaches. While some of the carp land in the water, others smack down like cannonballs into the boat, fracturing jaws, breaking arms, even knocking people into the water.

Yes, this is probably the only species in the world that catches you.

Big, ugly, invasive, pervasive, ravenous, repugnant, and soon to appear at a lake near you (the next could be Lake Michigan), the Asian carp has everyone from fishermen to the feds scrambling to find a solution. Sooner rather than later seems like a good idea. According to newsfeed.time.com, Asian carp can "grow into 4-foot-long, 100 pound monsters who devour 40 percent of their body weight daily." They destroy ecosystems by gorging themselves, and starving other species. They have no natural predators.

Ag departments and cooks—in areas where these fish are prevalent—are doing their best to turn them into fritters and deep-fried cakes. But it turns out that the Asian carp has a weird and unforgiving bony structure like no other fish. Even the best fishmonger can lose up to 90 percent of the fish just filleting it. And once that's finally done, the diner has a choice of either picking out or gagging on tiny bones that are next to impossible to get out.

The government is trying too. There's now a federal anti-carp initiative that includes $3 million in funding for "commercial market enhancements"—efforts to get people to buy and eat Asian carp, with the hope that a market for the fish will help limit its population.

How's it going? A Chicago chef-turned-fishmonger who works for a seafood distributor recently gave the fish to 10 top Chicago chefs who had never cooked with it before. "So far, all I can say is that they are disgusting," executive chef/partner Paul Kahan told the Chicago Reader, upon receiving his share at The Publican.

But just when you think it just might be easier to re-brand Mel Gibson than to get someone to say, "I'll have the Asian carp," I've got the solution. And it isn't a series of small incremental steps. It's a BIG! MAJOR! NOW! action plan that I have dubbed "Asian Carpe Diem."

Essentially, this means over-selling Asian carp, over-hyping it, over-saucing it, over-promoting it, and over-promising it. Which will lead to overeating it. Which will lead to overfishing it. Which will lead to it going the way of bluefin tuna, Atlantic halibut, and the dodo bird.

How to achieve this?

First, we need to work on giving Asian carp a new name. "Carp", re-spelled, is "crap." How about giving this fish an exotic name—something with "Emperor" or "Dynasty" or "Pacific Rim" or "Tila Tequila" in it? Hey, it worked for Chilean sea bass, Ralph Lauren, and Oscar "I added the De La" Renta.

But a name change could take years to catch on. So in the meantime...

    • Issue an edict that every new shopping mall in America is now required to have a Carp Food Court. Or "Food Carp."

    • Skip the fish stick, fillet, and lemon squeeze. Give today's Asian carp spicy wasabi crusts, raspberry coulis marinades, a sexy vodka tempura batter. Slow roast it in a salt crust. Cook it en papillote. Don't bring out the flavor; try to disguise it.

    • Give Asian carp its own cookbook (maybe Asian Carp for Dummies or You: The Asian Carp Connoisseur); its own Food Network show; its own food celeb. Bobby Fillet? Alice Waters?

    • Have nutritionists tout its high-protein profile and low calorie count. Make it a diet. Like, The Low Fat, High Carp Diet.

    • Have it be "the special" at every special fish restaurant. Run out by 6:30 p.m.

    • Sell it only at upscale fish markets, only in places like Santa Fe, the Hamptons, Nantucket, Palm Beach, Wasilla.

    • Let it leak that Chelsea and Mark served it at the wedding.

    • Stock Asian carp in Whole Foods ("Whole Carp") and Costco ("Carpco") and Trader Joe's. ("Two Buck Carp.") Say it's organic and Fair Trade and seasonal and high in Omega 3's, then triple the price and halve the inventory.

    • Do a full-court press in fast food and chain restaurants. Give a witty twist to highlight this exciting menu addition: McCarpy Meals, Olive Carpen, TGI Carp, KFCarp, Ruth's Chris Carp House, Coldstone Carpery.

    • Give this huge fish to huge food vendors like Aramark who supply schools, hospitals, armies, and prisons. Serve it to the Marine Carps. Make it a preferred Last Meal.

    • Tell Marion Nestle it's sustainable. Convince Michelle to serve it at The White House. Have Sanjay Gupta announce it's the lean, mean uber-fish of the millennium.

Finally, feel faux guilty over its ultimate demise. Then grab a beer, grill a steak, and settle in to watch the best Asian carp video of all: the one where the "sports fisherman" are hunting Asian carp with bows and arrows. Dang!

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Stephanie Pierson is the author of The Brisket Book: A Love Story With Recipes and the co-author of a book on contemporary behavior called What To Do When No One Has a Clue.

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