Rename the Carp and Put It on the Menu

| 6/2/2010 3:49:47 PM

Phillip Foss and carp

Large, invasive Asian carp are overwhelming the Mississippi River and heading for the Great Lakes—and one way to help stop their spread is to eat them, a host of observers are suggesting. But the American palate is not attuned to carp as a delicacy, and the fish’s PR problems begin with its inelegant, harsh-sounding name. So why not rename it? It worked for orange roughy, which once was known as the slimehead, and “rock salmon,” a.k.a. the spiny dogfish.

Big River magazine, which covers the Upper Mississippi, has had a field day with its carp coverage, which recently included a Name That Carp contest that is now down to its finalists. The common carp is the more established but less aggressive invader, while the silver carp is the gigantic, leaping variety that really has river watchers worried. Here are the suggested names:

Common carp
carpe delecti
river king
river koi

Silver carp
jump fish
river snapper
silver prince
winged silver roughy

Entries are closed, but Big River is asking the public to vote on these finalists and will announce the winning names in the July-August issue.

Asian carp in a crispy potato shell with braised leeks and barolo sauceIt’s not the only publication with carp on its mind. The Chicago Reader did an entire carp issue that included a ten-chef carp challenge. One chef, Phillip Foss of Lockwood restaurant, took the competition to heart and began putting carp dishes on his menu that attracted favorable attention from the Chicago Tribune and the Wall Street Journal.

But Foss isn’t going along with this renaming business. The Reader notes that “he was excited about selling Asian carp,” but that he wasn’t going to start calling it silverfin, as some boosters already have suggested. “He wasn’t going to sugarcoat it.”

julie kate hanus
6/4/2010 2:01:42 PM

@Jeff, agreed! I was recently reading an article about some professional wild food foragers who take the same approach with edible invasive plants. No one wants to eat Japanese knotweed, but red asparagus, now, that sounds like a treat. I had forgotten that the Chilean sea bass is one of those names. Perhaps we should go back to calling it the toothfish, and people would stop overfishing it to death.

6/4/2010 11:40:01 AM

I actually like the "re-name and dine in happiness" idea a lot -- it worked for the Chilean sea bass (nee Patagonian toothfish) as well -- but these names suck pretty hard. And the "river king" will always be a chinook salmon.

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