Presentations in Food Studies
Time: 11:15 am to 12:45 pm
Claire Alsup, NYU Steinhardt, Food Studies program, Master’s student
Key Words: Bait fish, local economics, sustainability, authenticity, D.O.P. status
Colatura di Alici di Cetara is a fish sauce unique to Cetara, Italy on the Amalfi Coast. It is made by layering gutted anchovies and salt in a wooden barrel (terzigno) and collecting the fermented liquid that is expressed from the bottom of the weighted-topped barrel. It is umami-ful, protein rich, and packed with omega-3 fatty acids. It has a storied history, its roots in Ancient Roman Garum, then a common ingredient.
Today fish sauce is seen in South-East Asian cuisines, in Worcestershire sauce, and even in early versions of catsup. But the birthplace of fish sauce is the Mediterranean, and the small town of Cetara in Campania, Italy is the only place in the region where anything like it still exists.
I am currently living near Cetara and studying the history, production, sustainability, economics, local politics, and the process of protecting the origin of this storied product. A committee including three main producers recently applied for Colatura di Alici di Cetara’s D.O.P. status within the EU. I intend to discuss much of this information and process in my research.
I am also interested in the more intangible facets of the product: its importance culturally in the region, in the lives of the fisherpeople, workers, and consumers, and its potential to reach a new market abroad given its story and nutritional benefits.
I am further curious if there is an opportunity to shed light on the potential benefits of renewing human consumption of bait fish as a way replace consumption of larger more depleted fish stocks like bluefin tuna and swordfish, and to protect them from use as fish meal for unsustainable farm-raised fish.
In the fall of 2016 I began to research how and why garum all but disappeared from its birthplace, while it became so integral to other cuisines across the world. Today, I have turned my attention to the contemporary issues and discussions that arise over one niche product, and how they can be seen as a microcosm of the issues our food system faces as a whole.