Vintage Recipes: Forbidden Food

January 18, 2016

Before I understood that eating shark’s fin threatened the animal’s survival, I ate the famously subtle Cantonese delicacy (they’re prized for their texture, not their mild flavor) with enormous pleasure. But it’s been years since I’ve had shark’s fin, and I’m happy it is now illegal to possess them in many states. Sharks grow slowly, and the practice of fishing them for their fins plays havoc with the ocean’s food chain.

But thirty-six years ago – in 1980 – nobody was giving much thought to sustainability issues, and Gourmet Magazine actually provided the American home cook with detailed instructions on preparing the exotic delicacy for soup. The instructions for making this begin with a march down to Chinatown.

Here’s the rest:




The same issue offered this recipe for sea cucumber with black mushrooms. I’m one of the few Americans I know with a passion for sea cucumbers, and it would give me great pleasure to find this recipe in a modern food magazine. Next time I find a purveyor of dried sea cucumber, I’ll definitely be trying this.


(The photograph above accompanied the article; sadly there were no pictures of sharks fin or sea cucumber.)

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1 Comment

  • Hi Ruth,

    I love your work and am enjoying your blog. However the post on shark fin soup troubles me. You say all the right things about why it’s wrong – so why provide the recipe? Shark fin soup is a horror beyond belief for the millions of sharks that have been taken. Please do nothing to encourage anyone from preparing it. Please refer your readers to the WildAid website for more information.

    Thank you,