The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Shrimp Slap

The Slate has an interesting article on America's favorite seafood (based on consumption), shrimp:

That began to change during the Reagan years, as seafood technologists figured out how to hatch shrimp eggs under controlled conditions, then nurse them through the post-larvae stage. Viruses, the bane of shrimp aquaculture, were brought under control thanks to more sophisticated filtration and purification systems. Given the high market prices for shrimp, millions of acres of land—particularly mangrove forests—in Asia and Latin America were cleared to create shrimp ponds, where juvenile shrimp are released and grown to a salable size.

Buyers in the United States liked the farmed shrimp not only because it was cheaper than the wild version, but because it was available year-round. Plus, the shrimp could be grown to consistent sizes, which made for pleasingly uniform dinner-plate presentations.

Mid- and low-priced restaurants—like, say, Sizzler—that could never before have offered affordable shrimp began to advertise all-you-can-eat specials, often in combination with scrawny steaks. Superstores began to stock bags of frozen, precooked shrimp in their grocery aisles, allowing party hosts to offer platters of shrimp at their in-home shindigs. The real watershed, however, came in 1985, when the fast-food chain Popeyes introduced Cajun Popcorn Shrimp, a deep-fried dish meant to compete with McDonald's Chicken McNuggets. Suddenly, shrimp was an everyday food, rather than a special treat.

The entire piece is worth perusing, and can be found here.


  • I get annoyed when writers attempt to assign too much credit for the cultural zeitgeist of a given time period to the President of the United States. I don't see why the writer couldn't have said "That began to change during the 1980s..." instead of "That began to change during the Reagan years..." Unless Reagan’s policies had something to do with the advancement of shrimp consumption and/or shrimp farming technology, I don't see how mentioning him makes the story any more poignant. Interesting read, nonetheless.

    By Blogger dhodge, at 10:40 AM  

  • Clearly you are not taking into consideration the Shrimp Boat Tax Subsidy Act of 1983 signed by Reagan.

    Nah, I'm just f*ckin' around. But I do like John Hodgman's approach to history. When in doubt, just make it up.

    By Blogger Gypsy Rose, at 12:55 PM  

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