Food and Drink 

Spring food royalty

This, the latest installment in my ongoing "I Hate to Cook But Love to Eat" campaign, also known as "You're Young - But, Hey, You Can Cook" or "How to Keep Us [and the Planet] Healthy Without Costing Much Money, Hassle or Regret," can only be called the "Thank God It's Spring" chapter.

Edit that to the "Thank God It's May" chapter, for May in B.C. means spot prawn season. And nothing makes a better, faster feast than sweet, succulent spot prawns that were alive and kicking an hour before they hit your plate.

Nothing, that is, except dressing up your prawn feed with the fresh and sassy extras to be had this time of year: fresh strawberries and asparagus from not too far south of the border, and local greens and radishes straight from Lower Mainland fields and greenhouses.

No excuses, now, for even looking at pears from Argentina or blueberries from Chile at the grocery store. Or, horror of horrors, tiger prawns raised on ginormous prawn farms in Southeast Asia, where one eco-disaster after another is the norm - from diseases that wipe out entire farms and all the prawns beyond to devastation of local mangrove forests.

Here in B.C., thank goodness, we're right in the thick of a prawn season that's healthy and sustainable. In fact, spot prawns caught in B.C. waters by trap are on David Suzuki's list of top 10 sustainable seafood picks.

If you don't buy your prawns fresh off the boat at your favourite wharf, then make sure you check that they aren't from Alaska, where spot prawns can be fished year-round.

In B.C. waters, by contrast, the entire prawn fishery is regulated so that prawns can only be fished after they have spawned. This works out perfectly for us - and for the prawn population - as prawns die after they spawn.

On commercial boats in B.C., spot prawns are sorted by hand as soon as they're landed so any by-catch is returned to the water immediately, as well as prawns that are too small.

Again, this works out perfectly as prawns start life as males, then transform into females in the final year of life. Plucking them from the water too young means they won't be able to reproduce and keep those delicious progeny coming for next year's dinners, and the next, and the next...

This year spot prawn season in B.C. officially started May 5. It kicked off with a festive spot prawn festival organized by The Chefs' Table Society of B.C., a chef-run organization that holds all kinds of interesting events. This year's event on Granville Island featured top chefs cooking up a feast, including Araxi's inimitable James Walt, who's also a director of the society.

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