A southerner on a visit out West might walk into a restaurant, see Rocky Mountain Oysters on the menu and order them, thinking he’ll get something close to what they serve char-broiled at Drago’s.
Surely, the restaurateur will sell more of them this way than if he calls them by their real name — bull testicles.
The equally uninitiated might see a chalkboard in front of a swanky French Quarter restaurant advertising the day’s special as “Broiled Rondeau Seabream,” and knock down the other tourists on the way to the door.
He probably wouldn’t have the same reaction if the chef rightfully referred to his fish of the day as “Broiled Sheepshead.”
Names are important. Ask any newlyweds who have recently discovered the stork will be visiting for the first time. The plus sign on the pregnancy test won’t have faded before they’re scouring web sites looking for baby names.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is hoping a name change is all it will take for you to rush out and buy a fish that you could harvest for free with a well-timed dip net in the fountain pond of your local Chinese restaurant.
That’s right — the LDWF wants you to start gobbling carp. I’m sorry, check that. The LDWF wants you to start gobbling “Silverfin.”
Back in the mid 1990s, the department, rightly reasoning that the name “nutria” sounds about as appetizing as the name “turd souffle,” set about to change the name to the very French-sounding “ragondin.”
Now every resident from Venice to Vivian serves Oven-Roasted Ragondin on Thanksgiving in lieu of turkey.
Never mind. Bad example.
Anyway, the department hopes you’ll find the name Silverfin so appealing that you’ll head to your local Rouses to buy the stuff.
Here’s why: Asian carp are nuisance fish that are displacing native species. Additionally, silver carp can kill you. They’re the 50-pound fish you’ve seen on television and Internet videos that jump sky-high at the sound of approaching boats. In areas where silver carp abound, no boater is safe behind a standard windshield.
But there’s the rub.
If the department’s hope is to draw the public’s attention to a renewable resource that, like it or not, is now part of the Louisiana ecosystem, I say kudos to them.
If, however, as seems evident in the department’s press releases, the agency’s intention is to create a market for a nuisance species and thereby control its numbers, “Silverfin” will travel the same path trodden by “Ragondin.”
Louisiana consumers have demonstrated a reluctance to eat overgrown rats, and they’ll likely do the same with outsized goldfish — if they think they’re taking one for the team and accomplishing some great civic duty by eating them.
If, on the other hand, they’re told “Silverfin” tastes like a magical hybrid of grouper, flounder and sac-a-lait — and consumers determine that it does — this thing just might work.