Posted on August 4, 2010 - by

With a Little Determination and A Lot of Caffeine…

“Women Nourish Us” is FRESH’s femme-focused blog series. Every week, we turn to a leading woman in the good food movement for ideas and inspiration. Be sure to check us out every Wednesday for a new write-in. Then pass the post!

Jacqueline Church is an independent food, wine & spirits writer whose work often focuses on “sensible sustainability” issues. She delights in helping people make practical choices to improve their lives and reduce their impact on the planet.

Her work appears in national and regional print media, including Culture: the World on Cheese and Edible Santa Barbara. She is a contributing writer to Nourish Network, writes the gourmet food column for Suite101, and publishes two blogs, The Leather District Gourmet and Pig Tales & Fish Friends.

She came to writing from a career covering diverse fields including the practice of law, high tech and management consulting. Her commitment to conservation issues precedes it all and began with a love of Jacques Cousteau and National Geographic. Since discovering Julia Child as an adolescent, she’s been devoted to good food and today combines all of these in the examination of global food issues and the nature of being a responsible gourmet.

She’s the founder of Teach a Man to Fish and Teach a Chef to Fish sustainable seafood events that engage people in the work of making more sustainable seafood choices for their families and restaurants.

I was the kid who always wanted to know “why” and often asked “why not?” I was always sure something better was just behind that closed door. I was always certain more fun was going to happen the minute I fell asleep.

I was the wrong kid to try to keep entertained during a childhood on a sterile, redundant, stifling military base. Three things diverted me from a life of crime: the National Geographic Society magazines on the coffee table, Jacques Cousteau specials on the television, and later, the discovery of Julia Child and cooking. If not for these, I’m quite sure I’d be asking you to bake me a cake with a file in it by now.

Lucky for me, my parents piqued my curiosity with legal but intoxicating ideas about the world. I vowed young that I would learn to dive so I could see that “undersea world.” I was probably still in jammies with feet when I promised myself that one day, I’d see Machu Picchu and visit the Terra Cotta Warriors. I knew in my travels I would eat exotic things, meet interesting people, and see wonderful ruins. I also knew I’d have to be a careful steward of the world out there that looked so very different from the one I lived in – the one that hardly seemed worth noticing at all.

Life happened. I got big girl PJs, big girl jobs and moved on to work that fed me in some ways and left me hungry in others. A couple of mixed blessings (AKA pink slips) left me wondering when I’d work at something that fed me more completely than law, than consulting, than hi tech bus dev gigs I’d enjoyed.

Eventually, I found writing and am learning to scratch out a living at it. More importantly, I discovered I could combine the things that are most important to me with writing. I could help people learn about these things through writing.

A few years ago, I hit upon the idea of sustainable seafood. Back then, it was still something not many folks in the mainstream were talking about. Many of us were still eating bluefin tuna and wondering if we really should. I’d been following the work of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and decided to use my blog to host an event called “Teach a Man to Fish.” During a limited period in the late Summer-Early Fall, I invite chefs, food writers, cookbook authors, home cooks, bloggers, everyone with an interest in sustainable seafood, to share recipes, resources, tips and questions.

Each participant sends me a recipe, a photo and a short blurb about how they chose that seafood or what they learned about sustainable seafood they prepared. I tidy up all the disparate emails, re-size the photos and add resource information about the seafood used, the challenge presented, to each entry. Then I post one mammoth round up of them all. The recipes are there for everyone to enjoy. I’ve built a resource guide that includes guides for purchasing sustainable seafood, sites with more information, scientific reports, fun clips and related news. Bloggers share their URLS and everyone gains new knowledge about more sustainable choices for their table.

In the 3+ years that I’ve hosted this event I’ve been invited to the Sustainability Institute and Cooking for Solutions, met some hard-working advocates for ocean conservation and sustainable food issues. I’ve met some wonderful chefs including some “Top Chefs” and my blog has been graced with some terrific stories by people around the globe. I’ve been to Cordova, AK to learn about salmon fisheries management and to meet actual fishermen.

I’ve seen the growth of sustainable sushi restaurants and helped to introduce chefs to new tools and resources for restaurant professionals through workshops for chefs I added last year. “Teach a Chef to Fish” will likely take a different shape this year, and I have been thrilled to introduce some new tools to chefs who were starting their inquiry or looking to deepen or broaden their reach.

When I was asked to contribute to this Women Who Nourish Us series, I was humbled. What could I have done or said to catapult me into this amazing cadre of women? Then I realized that the line I toss off when describing Teach a Man to Fish is at the core of this series’ intentions.

I often say my blog event is “simply an example of what one woman — armed with a little determination and a lot of caffeine — can do.” This is exactly the point, I think. I am not a marine biologist or a conservation expert with a degree. I’m simply someone who cares about these issues and is determined to help others build their own confidence and competence with them.

Each of us can pull up a big cup o’ Joe and get down to the business of whatever we think it is that needs to be done. All it takes is the willingness to ignore the odds, to disregard whether it’s been done before, the patience to explain a vision that may not at first make sense to anyone else. And when someone says it can’t be done, the willingness to ask — “why not?”

• Teach a Man to Fish began as a small blog event in 2007 with about 2 dozen recipes.
• In 2009, I designed and presented chefs’ workshops and delivered them in Boston &
Chicago. I delivered a shorter version at the International Boston Seafood Show with
chefs Andy Husbands and Barton Seaver.
• I speak regularly on the topic and recent engagements include a Slow Food Panel,
screening of The End of the Line and presenting at Tufts Friedman School on a panel
“Farm, Fish and Fowl: Exploring Sustainability.”
• TAMTF has been cited in Utne Reader’s Sustainable Seafood Report, noted by the
Sustainable Ocean Project and nominated for a Seafood Champions Award by the
Time Magazine 2009 Environmental Hero himself, Casson Trenor.
• Join in this year’s Teach a Man to Fish event on http://JacquelineChurch.com.

*If you believe in the power of women’s words and our growing sustainable food movement, please spread the word about our Women Nourish Us blog series via email, Facebook & Twitter (http://fdl.me/d1nqNe). If you would like to host a screening of FRESH for your friends or organization, please – be in touch!

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4 Comments

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  1. Visit My Website

    August 4, 2010

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    Mary said:

    I have been fortunate to attend a Teach a Chef to Fish event as well as a panel discussion Jackie was on.

    I find the information from these events to be so very helpful to me when talking with my fishmonger (usually the highschooler behind the supermarket counter in a paper hat).

    I would love to see more sustainable sushi events out here in the Northeast.



  2. Visit My Website

    August 4, 2010

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    Marisa said:

    Great series & great film!

    My favorite line in this piece: And when someone says it can’t be done, the willingness to ask — “why not?”

    That’s a scary/awesome question, because you’re opening yourself up to a ton of possibilities!



  3. Visit My Website

    August 5, 2010

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    Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said:

    Let’s hear it for tackling such a complex, difficult issue with good sense, thoughtful consideration, and a real appreciation for food. Nice piece.



  4. Visit My Website

    April 14, 2012

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    Audio Hardware said:

    One of the useful post I’ve been reading lately … Keep up the good job. Congrats.