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Tourists Fund Vacations with Black Market Mushrooms

Tourists Fund Vacations with Black Market Mushrooms


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Mushroom-picking tourists fund vacations with wild mushrooms

Wikimedia/FotoosVanRobin

Tourists in Austria have reportedly taken to funding their vacations by gathering wild mushrooms for restaurants.

Mushroom hunting is an entertaining way to spend a day, but the crops in Austria have been so successful this summer that tourists have been turning the bumper crop into an opportunity for a black market working vacation.

According to The Local, this year Austria has had a wet summer that’s been very good for the wild mushrooms in its woodlands. In fact it’s been so good that recently the mountain guard in the Austrian state of Carinthia said it had discovered a surprising black market in tourist-gathered mushrooms, because Austria’s tourists have taken to mushroom gathering, then selling their hauls to local restaurants to pay for their vacations.

Some tourists have reportedly even managed to gather up to 110 pounds of mushrooms to sell to restaurants, many of which are more than happy to buy a big basket of fresh local mushrooms from friendly neighborhood tourists. But the practice is illegal and the tourists are actually running a black market and risking police involvement.

"Buying and selling without a license is prohibited by law," a representative said.

Officials say they will be monitoring mushroom deliveries to the area’s restaurants to crack down on the illicit mushroom business. Mushroom picking for personal use is still OK, check out our best mushroom recipes for some creative ways to use up your own haul.


Tourists Fund Vacations with Black Market Mushrooms - Recipes

  • Take Dormaa Gonokrom Road west from Dormaa.
  • Turn left at the customs check point.
  • Duasidan is the village after Atesikrom.

The new monkey sanctuary discovered at Duasidan in the Dormaa District of the Brong-Ahafo Region brings to two, the number of such sanctuaries in the region. The other one is at Buabeng-Fiema in the Nkoranza district.

Besides the two monkey sanctuaries, the Buoyem Bat Colony and the Tanoboase Sacred Grove are two other eco-tourist attractions in the region.

The Duasidan Monkey Sanctuary project, is being financed by the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), Global Environmental Fund, the Danish Development Agency (DANIDA) and German Technical Co-operation (GTZ) through SPEED Ghana.

Tracing the history of the sanctuary, the Chief of Duasidan, Nana Oppong Kyekyeku Ababio told Showbiz that it was designated as a sacred grove about 120 years ago by a traditional priest called Akua Korkor during the reign of Nana Asiedu.

He said the traditional priest and Nana Asiedu decreed that the monkeys should not be harmed. Out of fear that the gods would punish anyone who defied the order, the animals have been preserved till now.

The Duasidan project is being be used to entrench sustainable eco-tourism practices in the area.
A visit to the sanctuary revealed that the guards there have names such as as Agatha, Abrewaa, Akos, John, Maa Fia and Maame Abenaa for some of the monkeys. They said Bob and Sampson are the biggest primates at the sanctuary.

Source: GNA / 2007 - Duasidan (B/A), Dec. 10, GNA- Mr Francis Tapena, Acting Brong-Ahafo Regional Director of the Ghana Tourist Board has appealed to Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to help develop tourism by identifying attractive sites.

He expressed his concern about the deplorable state of road networks linking to tourist communities in some parts of the country. Mr Tapena made the appeal at the launch of the Duasidan Monkey Sanctuary at Duasidan, a farming community in the Dormaa district of the region. The sanctuary is the second in the region, after the famous Buabeng-Fiema.

The launch was under the theme, "promoting community eco-tourism as a means of wealth creation".

Mr Tapena said tourism plays a very crucial role in national development and as such needed a vibrant and sustainable development strategy.

He urged the people of Duasidan and environs to play their respective roles to enhance eco-tourism in the area. Nana Oppong Kyekyeku Ababio, Chief of Duasidan, said the sanctuary, which was discovered about 120 years ago contained more than 1000 monkeys, made up of three different species.

He said the animals were regarded as "holy" and people were prohibited from either killing or harming them.

The chief appealed to the government and NGOs to help develop the sanctuary to boost eco-tourism and to create jobs for the youth. Mr Emmanuel Abugbila, Executive Director of Green Shepherd Ghana, an NGO assisting the community to develop the sanctuary, said the NGO was working in 12 other communities to promote eco-tourism in the region.

He said the NGO has assisted the youth in beneficiary communities to engage in snail and mushroom production, bee keeping and grass cutter rearing.

Mr Abugbila said this help swayed the youth from entering the reserved tourist sites for game.


Tourists Fund Vacations with Black Market Mushrooms - Recipes

Robin Mercy will plant mushrooms in the Kaslo Community Forest

A Kaslo area farmer has been given permission to plant mushrooms along a local trail as an unusual experiment in community gardening.

Robin Mercy was given the OK to inoculate (as planting mushrooms is called) logs along Kaslo&rsquos Wardner Trail by council last month. He says the pilot project is a test of principles of both forestry and farming.

&ldquoI spent over a decade in forestry, and through that experience I have been dying to bring my career paths a little more together,&rdquo he says. &ldquoI&rsquove been thinking of multi-use forests in general, and ways we can take the idea of alternative revenue streams in the forestry industry, instead of just moving raw logs to market.

&ldquoThe idea is take some wood that&rsquos low-value or hard-to-access. Maybe we can fruit some mushrooms off it and get a food crop as well, if it&rsquos not going to be used for anything else.&rdquo

Mercy, who has operated Mr. Mercy&rsquos Mushrooms in the North Kootenay Lake region for the last five years, wants to use a section of the Kaslo Community Forest that the Wardner hiking trail runs through as a test project. He&rsquoll inoculate several fallen Douglas fir trees that were selectively cut over the winter to address fir beetle damage.

Mercy plans to inject some of these freshly fallen stumps with fungus from the edible Phoenix Oyster, pleurotus Pulmonarius. It is a reasonably common mushroom with no look-alike poisonous dopplegangers, he says.

&ldquoWe&rsquore trying to see if we can grow mushrooms in a very low-tech, outdoor environment, and measure a few different outcomes,&rdquo says Mercy. &ldquoThese are all mushrooms you can find growing just sprouting from logs in a natural environment.&rdquo

He&rsquoll then compare the crop he gets with a control area, to assess the potential for &ldquosignificant production of an edible mushroom on waste wood, without regular watering or other maintenance.&rdquo He&rsquoll also see if the mushrooms help speed up decomposition and soil improvement in the test area.

Mercer is working with Selkirk College&rsquos Environmental Technology branch in setting up the experimental &lsquofarm.&rsquo Depending on the timing, college students may be available to help inoculate the stumps and logs. Mercer will supply the spawn (think mushroom seeds) for the starters.

&ldquoI believe that projects like this could be valuable in starting to develop plans for mixed-use forestry operations, and could also address food security issues in the longer term,&rdquo he wrote to council. &ldquoIt could also be a good opportunity for Village residents and tourists alike to observe a unique food-growing process trail-side on a popular hike.&rdquo

But at the beginning, it will be rather small scale, and not a free-standing wild mushroom store on the edge of town.

&ldquoI don&rsquot want to get ahead of myself. It&rsquos going to be pretty limited. We&rsquore probably thinking of doing a dozen stumps or so, so I&rsquom not expecting a huge yield,&rdquo he says. &ldquoIt&rsquos mostly for research purposes, seeing how this works…

&ldquoAlthough they take a while to get going, potentially they can perennialize, and come back year to year, until the nutrients in the wood are used up and it&rsquos beginning to rot,&rdquo he says.

Mercy noted that his business will not benefit monetarily from this project or have any claim over any mushrooms produced as part of this trial.

&ldquoFor me it would just be some interesting research to conduct close to home and would give me experience to potentially pitch projects like this again in the future on a larger scale,&rdquo he said.

Council gave the go-ahead for the project to proceed. They also asked staff to ask Mercy to install signage along the pilot project route to explain to hikers what is going on at the site.


Maxville: The Oregon Ghost Town That Flouted Jim Crow

Image titled "Friendships Say No To Jim Crow", 1937, photographer unknown. Image courtesy of the Ona Hug Collection / Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center.

Before I had developed an interest in and explored many of Oregon’s “Ghost Towns”, Maxville was quite unknown to me. Located deep in Wallowa County, little is physically left of the old logging town but rich and sometimes disturbing history remains.

One night I managed to catch an episode of OPB’s “The Oregon Experience” entitled, The Logger’s Daughter, a fascinating and very raw documentary about the lives and experiences that shaped Maxville. Hundreds of loggers left Arkansas and Mississippi to live and work there. Many brought their families, and many were people of color. This program follows a woman who was born and raised in Eastern Oregon, as she sets out to explore her family’s past.

Known by a handful of names over the years, Maxville was home to men of color: loggers at a time when Oregon’s constitution included a provision of discriminatory Jim Crow laws excluding blacks and many people of color from the state. The town seems tiny by today’s standards with a population of about 400 residents, 40 to 60 of them African American. However, it was the largest town in Wallowa County between 1923 and 1933.

From The Oregon Encyclopedia: “Company jobs were typically segregated based on ethnic origin. Black workers felled the trees in teams, using cross-cut saws, and many had experience as log loaders, log cutters, railroad builders, tong hookers, and section foremen. The Greek workers at Maxville had expertise in railroad building, and white workers worked as section foremen, tree toppers, saw filers, contract truck drivers, and bridge builders.” Life wasn’t easy. The Great Depression and type of work made for troubling and difficult times.

The Logging crew t Maxville. Image courtesy of the Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center.

Maxville was mapped according to an often-used template in company towns, one that segregated residents by marital status and ethnicity. In 1926, two buildings, one for white students and one for Black students, were hauled to Maxville. The school for white students was located on the south side of Maxville and taught up to 75 students while the school for Black students was located on the north side of town and taught around 13 students. Maxville’s schools were the only segregated schools in Oregon at that time.

Students and teachers at the “white” Maxville school circa 1930. Image courtesy of OPB. In contrast, the “black” school at the northern end of Maxville. Image courtesy of the Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center.

Despite all of this, friendships among Maxville families flourished in a time when such was considered “improper”. Although the schools were located on opposite sides of Maxville, kids found ways to connect and play, meeting up after school to forge friendships. From the Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center:

“Despite Bowman-Hicks’ enforcement of Jim Crow-inspired segregation mandates, Maxville’s isolation from mainstream society encouraged the formation of interracial friendships. Black and white townspeople socialized and often shared resources. When Bowman-Hicks ended its logging operation in 1933, the Black and White schools desegregated and the remaining Maxville children attended school together, taught by Madeline Riggles.”

“Between Chores and School”, 1937. Image courtesy of the Ona Hug Collection / Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center.

Baseball was an essential pastime during the 1920s and 30s. The lumber company enforced strict segregation rules here as well, and although the black and white teams played each other in town matches, the two teams merged when they competed against other local teams. This interracial team became the “Maxville Wildcats”, destroying the local white teams of Wallowa, Joseph, Enterprise, Elgin and La Grande. According to a newspaper article, the integrated team “played rings around the other team, scoring at will.” 35 cents earned you a seat at a game in 1925.

The Maxville Wildcats. Image courtesy of the Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center.

Economic conditions, especially the Great Depression and downturn in the lumber market, led to Maxville’s eventual decline as a town. In 1933 the Bowman-Hicks Lumber Company closed. Some of the residents settled in the nearby town of Wallowa. A few lingered at Maxville to work in what remained of the timber industry until a bad winter storm in the 1940s caused most of the remaining structures to collapse. After that Maxville became a ghost town.

The general area of the site of the Maxville ghost town. Image courtesy of Oregon State Archives, 2019.

Some 60 years later, the children and grandchildren of the original logging families began researching the history of the town and uncovering the stories of their ancestors. This effort led to the founding of the Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center (MHIC) which “collects, preserves, and interprets the history of the logging community of Maxville and similar communities throughout the West. MHIC’s mission is to serve Oregon and the greater Pacific Northwest by preserving resources and providing information and education about this little-known chapter of the American experience”.

“The rich history of African Americans can be found in all parts of the country, in communities both large and small, and in unexpected places. The isolated logging community of Maxville, home to many African American loggers, once resonated with the whine of saws and the laughter of children. Today, the children and grandchildren of the original settlers are working together to bring the story of Maxville back to life.”

–Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center

Currently, a massive project has been founded by Gwen Trice to celebrate the Oregon Timber Culture contributions of African Americans, Indigenous folks, and immigrants through oral history transcripts, original poetry, and music by creating an album, course curriculum, and teacher’s guide for school and libraries. Gwen is the daughter of African American logger Lucky Trice, a leader in the Black community of Maxville (1923 – 1933).


35 of the Most Beautiful Lighthouses in America

How many of these photogenic landmarks have you visited?

Some of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world can be found in America, from the coasts of California to the shores of Mississippi. Let these lighthouse photos inspire you to take a trip around the country, so you can experience the scenic beauty and historical significance for yourself.

This gorgeous red lighthouse is the tallest in Florida, and one of the tallest in the United States. Its history goes way back to 1835, though it was out of use for decades because of destruction and construction. It's been back in business since 1982, though, and was named a National Historic Landmark in 1998.

If you can't travel down to the deep South to see this Mississippi attraction in person, don't worry: The kind folks of Biloxi set up a live video feed from the top of the lighthouse so everyone can enjoy the view.

On the coast of Little Brewer Island you'll find the oldest lighthouse in the U.S. The first structure was built in in 1716, and the current one was erected in 1783. If you're in the area, you can take a tour of the Boston Harbor&mdashwhich includes this National Historic Landmark&mdashduring the summer.

According to the National Park Service website, this Bay Area beauty has "helped shepherd ships through the treacherous Golden Gate straits" since 1855. You can visit the lighthouse and trail on Sundays and Mondays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., weather permitting.

Looking to own a lighthouse? Back in 2015, this was one of six being offered for free by the Federal Government as part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000.

Diamond Lady Lighthouse stands tall above the shimmering sand at Cape Lookout on North Carolina's central shore, an area accessible only by boat. Built in 1859, it was painted with its distinctive black-and-white checkered pattern in 1873.

Michigan is home to more lighthouses than any other U.S. state. The Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association is raising funds to repair Ludington State Park's Big Sable Point Lighthouse&mdashthe last of the Great Lakes lighthouses to become electrified.

This picturesque lighthouse has been a shining beacon along the central California coastline since 1872.

This charming lighthouse was saved from demolition in the 1960s and is today one of the most beloved landmarks in Lorain, Ohio.

One of the most architecturally sophisticated lighthouses in the country, this Rhode Island beauty is an impressive example of the High Victorian Gothic style.

Located in the Florida Keys and originally known as the Dry Tortugas Light, this iconic structure became America's most powerful lighthouse when it was electrified in 1931.

An early keeper known as "Ernie" is said to haunt this historical Connecticut lighthouse.

Located in Cape Elizabeth, Maine's oldest lighthouse (it dates to 1791) is also one of the state's most photographed landmarks.

Considered to be one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world, this Oregon treasure now operates as a bed & breakfast.

Michigan's only barber pole lighthouse can be found on the state's Save Our Lights license plates.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this is Oregon's only surviving historical, wooden lighthouse.

This picturesque San Diego lighthouse operated for only 36 years. Built in 1855, it was decommissioned in 1891 after its location proved too foggy to show its beam.

Perched high on a rocky cliff, the Split Rock Lighthouse resembles something only Hollywood could dream up. Naturally, it made a cameo appearance in the 2013 film The Great Gatsby.

A black-and-white wonder, this whimsical tower replaced an earlier lighthouse (the second on the site) that was blown apart during the Civil War.

As one of California's first lighthouses (and arguably its most spectacular), this Crescent City icon has been helping mariners navigate the rugged coastline since 1856.

Noted New York architect John Norris&mdashwho was responsible for some of Savannah's most celebrated buildings&mdashdesigned this charming little lighthouse near Tybee Island in 1848.

Rising 193 feet above ground, this is the tallest brick lighthouse in America and it's open for full moon climbs on select evenings throughout the year.

It's in Cape Disappointment, but Washington's North Head Lighthouse is anything but! Visit this 117-year-old tower to take in sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and Long Beach Peninsula.

With its majestic setting and quirky octagonal shape, this Alaska lighthouse tops our list of "must-see" places.

Accessible by ferry, this 10-room lighthouse now operates as a museum showcasing what life was like for 19th-century light keepers.

Miraculously, all of the historic support structures have survived on this preserved, five-acre site that contains one of Georgia's prettiest beacons.

Automated since 1966, the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse is kept by "Sarah," a blond, uniformed mannequin in the second story who watches over the site and guards it from vandals.

You'll find this jewel of a lighthouse towering over the crystal blue waters of Key Biscayne.

One of America's most beautiful coastal drives leads to this serene setting at the tip of Old Mission Point Peninsula.

If you miss the celebrated holiday lights at the Cape Neddick Lighthouse (known more commonly as the "Nubble Light"), don't fret&mdashthe complex will be lit again during the annual "Christmas in July" festivities.


The 10 best places to visit if you are vegetarian

There are plenty of meat-free havens out there Credit: AP

Follow the author of this article

F or globe-trotters who don’t eat meat, learning to say “I am a vegetarian” in the local language can be an essential skill. In case you need to know, it’s “Ana natbateeyah” in Arabic, “Watashi wa bejitarian desu” in Japanese and “Eu sou vegetariano” in Portuguese.

In Britain, not only is there no language barrier but vegetarian diners have an annual celebration of their own. National Vegetarian Week (which begins on today) is a familiar foodie fixture which will this year enlist the help of the Hairy Bikers in championing the cause and encouraging the general public to “get stuck in and go veggie for a week”.

In Britain, adopting a diet free of meat, poultry, game, fish and shellfish has never been easier and is not just a metropolitan choice. Glasgow now rivals London as vegetarian restaurant capital of the UK, while a plethora of recipe books allows anyone without access to vegetarian restaurants or street food to experiment with non-carnivorous cuisine at home.

By comparison, life for a vegetarian traveller can be more of a challenge merely crossing the Channel to France can be a vegetarian’s idea of hell – but don’t panic. There are plenty of meat-free havens out there, as this worldwide selection shows.

To mark National Vegetarian Week, here is my pick of 10 places, from Italy to India, where meat-free cuisine is celebrated.

1. Italy

Just one risotto

With the highest proportion of vegetarians in Europe and many classic restaurant favourites that are naturally meat-free, Italy wins hands-down as the most vegetarian-friendly destination on the continent. A simple “sono vegetariano” will yield delicious grilled or sautéed vegetable concoctions, risottos, salads and pasta dishes found in rural trattorias and truck stops, hip urban cafés and smart ristorantes. In Rome, head for L’Aranica Blue for treats such as black truffle macaroni, ricotta di bufala ravioli and buttered courgette flowers with a fine choice of wines on open shelves along the walls.


The Mystery Gift at the End of the World

My mother-in-law wouldn’t tell us what our wedding gift would be — only that we’d have to travel to a forest, on an island, in Sweden, to receive it.

When my wife and I were married, my mother-in-law told us she had a special gift for us. I wasn’t sure what to expect. She didn’t tell us what the gift was, but she did tell us where it was. In Sweden, on an island, in the forest.

As with all magical places, getting to the island in Sweden requires some effort (particularly as my wife, son and I live in Los Angeles). After the plane, the train and a car ride to the countryside, a boat ferries us across the lake from the mainland. There are only a handful of cottages — with no electricity or running water — on the island. It hasn’t been developed (and, I hope, never will be). The forest service long ago gave over the island’s forest management to nature, so the place is thick with trees: gangly evergreens and white birch, as well as wildflowers, blueberry plants and many others. The island is only about 50 acres, but it’s quite easy to get lost. Distances walking in the forest are hard to determine. You spend so much time walking over, under and around branches, brush and fallen trees that a simple hike can quickly become a disorienting journey. There are no straight lines in a forest.

In Sweden, mushrooms are like gold. Specifically chanterelle mushrooms. Aside from their high cost and their subtle earthy flavor (cooked in butter and served on toast), their value is enhanced by how late in the season they grow. So Swedes are extremely protective of their chanterelle patches. And though the custom of allemansratten (𠇏reedom to roam”) allows everyone access to walk and forage on all lands, when a patch is discovered deep in the forest, people sometimes record the GPS coordinates and pass them down like a closely guarded secret.

When my wife and I were married, my mother-in-law told us she had a special gift for us. I wasn’t sure what to expect. She didn’t tell us what the gift was, but she did tell us where it was. In Sweden, on an island, in the forest.

As with all magical places, getting to the island in Sweden requires some effort (particularly as my wife, son and I live in Los Angeles). After the plane, the train and a car ride to the countryside, a boat ferries us across the lake from the mainland. There are only a handful of cottages — with no electricity or running water — on the island. It hasn’t been developed (and, I hope, never will be). The forest service long ago gave over the island’s forest management to nature, so the place is thick with trees: gangly evergreens and white birch, as well as wildflowers, blueberry plants and many others. The island is only about 50 acres, but it’s quite easy to get lost. Distances walking in the forest are hard to determine. You spend so much time walking over, under and around branches, brush and fallen trees that a simple hike can quickly become a disorienting journey. There are no straight lines in a forest.

In Sweden, mushrooms are like gold. Specifically chanterelle mushrooms. Aside from their high cost and their subtle earthy flavor (cooked in butter and served on toast), their value is enhanced by how late in the season they grow. So Swedes are extremely protective of their chanterelle patches. And though the custom of allemansratten (𠇏reedom to roam”) allows everyone access to walk and forage on all lands, when a patch is discovered deep in the forest, people sometimes record the GPS coordinates and pass them down like a closely guarded secret.

The day my mother-in-law took us for our first walk, everything seemed slow and quiet (besides the buzz of the mosquitoes). I listened to her tell stories of playing here as a child exploring it made me feel young, and nostalgic for a past I had never lived. I marched behind my wife and was careful when stepping over fallen trees or catching branches she bent back to allow me to pass. I noticed too that colors were brighter — particularly the striking golden-yellow chanterelles, whose unusual billowing shapes sometimes reminded me of linens blowing on a clothesline or tiny versions of Marilyn Monroe’s dress in “The Seven Year Itch.” Once I reoriented myself to searching like this, it became sport to find them. Some mushrooms you can eat, and some can make you very sick. Animals know this, and people who spend lots of time in the forest know this. My mother-in-law knows.

I wasn’t sure how far we had walked, and I would not even have seen the path if it weren’t for my mother-in-law’s pointing it out. She took us to a clearing among some trees, looked around a bit, then stopped and bent down. She carefully pulled back some leaves and brush and said, “This is for you.” It was a small patch of chanterelle mushrooms: a cluster of about five or six undulating golden nuggets jutting out of the dark, wet ground. She said she had given each of her children a patch in the forest where she found that mushrooms consistently grew each year. “Some years the animals get to them first,” she said, 𠇋ut we’re lucky this year.”

It’s winter now, and we are back in Los Angeles. But I find myself thinking a lot about my mother-in-law’s gava, her gift — our tiny plot of mushrooms. The quiet of the forest, maybe it’s snowing, maybe it’s dark. It’s strangely comforting to think of something so small and delicate and so far away — our small space alone on its island where we will return year after year.

Brian Rea is an artist in Los Angeles, where he has an exhibit on display at the CMay Gallery. His book �th Wins a Goldfish” was published earlier this year.

Illustrations by Brian Rea. Animations by Pablo Delcan.

The travel guru believes the tiniest exposure to other cultures will change Americans’ entire lives.

Rick Steves can tell you how to avoid having your pocket picked on the subway in Istanbul. He can tell you where to buy cookies from cloistered Spanish nuns on a hilltop in Andalusia. He can tell you approximately what percentage of Russia’s gross domestic product comes from bribery. He can teach you the magic idiom that unlocks perfectly complementary gelato flavors in Florence (“What marries well?”).

But Rick Steves does not know his way around New York City.

“In the Western Hemisphere,” Steves told me one afternoon last March, “I am a terrible traveler.”

We were, at that moment, very much inside the Western Hemisphere, 4,000 miles west of Rome, inching through Manhattan in a hired black car. Steves was in the middle of a grueling speaking tour of the United States: 21 cities in 34 days. New York was stop No.17. He had just flown in from Pittsburgh, where he had spent less than 24 hours, and he would soon be off to Los Angeles, Denver and Dallas. In his brief windows of down time, Steves did not go out searching for quaint restaurants or architectural treasures. He sat alone in his hotel rooms, clacking away on his laptop, working on new projects. His whole world, for the time being, had been reduced to a concrete blur of airports, hotels, lecture halls and media appearances.

In this town car, however, rolling through Midtown, Steves was brimming with delight. He was between a TV interview at the New York Stock Exchange and a podcast at CBS, and he seemed as enchanted by all the big-city bustle as the most wide-eyed tourist.

“Look at all the buildings!” he exclaimed. “There’s so much energy! Man, oh, man!”

A woman crossed the street pushing two Yorkies in a stroller.

The town car crawled toward a shabby metal hulk spanning the East River.

“Wow!” Steves said. “Is that the Brooklyn Bridge?”

It was almost the opposite of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most recognizable structures in the world: a stretched stone cathedral. This was its unloved upriver cousin, a tangle of discolored metal, vibrating with cars, perpetually under construction. The driver told Steves that it was the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge — or, as most New Yorkers still thought of it, the 59th Street Bridge.

This revelation only increased Steves’s wonder.

“The 59th Street Bridge!” he said. “That’s one of my favorite songs!”

With buoyant enthusiasm, Steves started to sing Simon and Garfunkel’s classic 1966 tune “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy).”

“Slow down, you move too fast,” he sang. “You got to make the mornin’ last — just — kickin’ down the cobblestones. . ”

The car hit traffic and lurched to a stop. Steves paused to scan the street outside. “Where are the cobblestones?” he asked. Then he refocused. He finished the song with a flourish: “Lookin’ for fun and feelin’ — GROOOVYYYYYY!”

There was a silence in the car.

�n you imagine those two guys walking around right here?” Steves said. “Just feeling groovy? Gosh, that’s cool.”

Steves pulled out his phone and, for his online fans, recorded a video of himself singing “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy).”

“It’s fun to be in New York City,” he signed off. “Happy travels!”

There was another silence in the car, this one longer.

“You know,” the driver said finally, “you’re not very different than you are on your show.”

This was correct. The driver was referring to Steves’s long-running, widely syndicated, family-friendly public-television travel series, “Rick Steves’ Europe,” on which Steves is a joyful and jaunty host, all eager-beaver smiles and expressive head tilts. With a backpack over one shoulder and a hand tucked into his pocket, Steves gushes poetically about England’s Lake District (𠇊 lush land steeped in a rich brew of history, culture and nature”) and Erfurt, Germany (“this half-timbered medieval town with a shallow river gurgling through its center”) and Istanbul (“this sprawling metropolis on the Bosporus”) and Lisbon (“like San Francisco, but older and grittier and less expensive”). He reclines jauntily atop the cliffs of Dover and is vigorously scrubbed in a Turkish bath. The show has aired now for nearly 20 years, and in that time, among travelers, Steves has established himself as one of the legendary PBS superdorks — right there in the pantheon with Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross and Big Bird. Like them, Steves is a gentle soul who wants to help you feel at home in the world. Like them, he seems miraculously untouched by the need to look cool, which of course makes him sneakily cool. To the aspiring traveler, Steves is as inspirational as Julia Child once was to the aspiring home chef.

Eventually, Steves’s busy New York day ended on the Upper East Side, where he was scheduled to give a talk at a Barnes & Noble. As we drove to the event, Steves confessed that he wasn’t sure what kind of crowd he would get. You never knew exactly where his Rickniks (as the hard-core fans call themselves) would materialize en masse. Some Steves appearances were mobbed others were sparse. His appeal is slightly cultish. For every Ricknik out in the world, a large contingent of average people have no idea who he is.

I was mildly skeptical about Steves’s drawing power in New York. It was hard to imagine a bunch of cynical, worldly, urban, polyglot, multicultural East Coast sophisticates — people who probably vacationed at deconsecrated eco-hostels in Oman or Madagascar — getting excited about public television’s reigning expert on Europe.

We arrived, however, to find the bookstore overflowing. A solid wave of applause met Steves at the door. Fans had been pouring in, the organizer told us, for two solid hours. People sat in the aisles and stood in the back. Some wore T-shirts and hats bearing the Rick Steves slogan: “Keep on Travelin’.” The crowd’s body heat overwhelmed the building’s climate control.

I noticed a group of hipster 20-somethings standing near the back, and at first I assumed they had all come sarcastically. But as Steves began to speak, they grinned and laughed with absolute earnestness. Everyone here was, apparently, a superfan. At one point, Steves showed a slide of tourists swimming in a sunny French river underneath a Roman aqueduct, and the whole crowd gasped. When he mentioned that his website featured a special video devoted to packing light for women, a woman in the crowd actually pumped her fist.

At the end of his talk, Steves offered to sign books — but not in the traditional way. There were too many people for a signing table, he said, and anyway, single-file lines were always inefficient. (This is one of his travel credos: avoid waiting in line.) Instead of sitting down, Steves walked out into the center of the room and invited everyone to open their books and surround him. He pulled out a Sharpie. And then he started to spin. Steves held out his pen and signed book after book after book, fluidly, on the move, smiling as the crowd pressed in. “We went to Portugal on our honeymoon,” a man shouted. “How romantic!” Steves answered, still spinning. A woman asked him where to celebrate Christmas in Europe. Steves, in midrotation, still signing furiously, told her that he had made a whole special about precisely that question and that it was available free on his website. “Keep on travelin’, Rick!” someone shouted. “Keep on travelin’!” Steves shouted back. As he spun, Steves thanked everyone and gave quick, off-the-cuff advice. In an astonishingly short time, he had signed every book. The people were satisfied. The crowd thinned. Steves finally came to a stop.

Rick Steves is absolutely American. He wears jeans every single day. He drinks frozen orange juice from a can. He likes his hash browns burned, his coffee extra hot. He dislikes most fancy restaurants when he’s on the road, he prefers to buy a foot-long Subway sandwich and split it between lunch and dinner. He has a great spontaneous honk of a laugh — it bursts out of him, when he is truly delighted, with the sharpness of a firecracker on the Fourth of July. Steves is so completely American that when you stop to really look at his name, you realize it’s just the name Rick followed by the plural of Steve — that he is a one-man crowd of absolutely regular everyday American guys: one Rick, many Steves. Although Steves spends nearly half his life traveling, he insists, passionately, that he would never live anywhere but the United States — and you know when he says it that this is absolutely true. In fact, Steves still lives in the small Seattle suburb where he grew up, and every morning he walks to work on the same block, downtown, where his parents owned a piano store 50 years ago. On Sundays, Steves wears his jeans to church, where he plays the congas, with great arm-pumping spirit, in the inspirational soft-rock band that serenades the congregation before the service starts, and then he sits down and sings classic Lutheran hymns without even needing to refer to the hymnal. Although Steves has published many foreign-language phrase books, the only language he speaks fluently is English. He built his business in America, raised his kids in America and gives frequent loving paeans to the glories of American life.

And yet: Rick Steves desperately wants you to leave America. The tiniest exposure to the outside world, he believes, will change your entire life. Travel, Steves likes to say, “wallops your ethnocentricity” and �rbonates your experience” and “rearranges your cultural furniture.” Like sealed windows on a hot day, a nation’s borders can be stultifying. Steves wants to crack them open, to let humanity’s breezes circulate. The more rootedly American you are, the more Rick Steves wants this for you. If you have never had a passport, if you are afraid of the world, if your family would prefer to vacation exclusively at Walt Disney World, if you worry that foreigners are rude and predatory and prone to violence or at least that their food will give you diarrhea, then Steves wants you — especially you — to go to Europe. Then he wants you to go beyond. (For a majority of his audience, Steves says, 𠇎urope is the wading pool for world exploration.”) Perhaps, like him, you will need large headphones and half a tab of Ambien to properly relax on the flight, but Steves wants you to know that it will be worth it. He wants you to stand and make little moaning sounds on a cobblestone street the first time you taste authentic Italian gelato — flavors so pure they seem like the primordial essence of peach or melon or pistachio or rice distilled into molecules and stirred directly into your own molecules. He wants you to hike on a dirt path along a cliff over the almost-too-blue Mediterranean, with villages and vineyards spilling down the rugged mountains above you. He wants you to arrive at the Parthenon at dusk, just before it closes, when all the tour groups are loading back onto their cruise ships, so that you have the whole place to yourself and can stand there feeling like a private witness to the birth, and then the ruination, of Western civilization.

Steves wants you to go to Europe for as long as you can afford to, and he also wants to help you afford it. (Much of his guru energy is focused on cutting costs.) He wants you to go as many times as possible, and while you’re there, he wants you to get way down deep into the culture, to eat with locals in the teeming markets, to make a sympathetic fool of yourself, to get entirely lost in your lack of America.

Out of this paradoxical desire — the enlightenment of Americans through their extraction from America — Steves has built his quirky travel empire. His guidebooks, which started as hand-typed and photocopied information packets for his scraggly 1970s tour groups, now dominate the American market their distinctive blue-and-yellow spines brighten the travel sections of bookstores everywhere. Steves is less interested in reaching sophisticated travelers than he is in converting the uninitiated. (“There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents,” the Bible tells us, “than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.”) Last year, his company led close to 30,000 paying customers on dozens of elaborate European itineraries. Steves teaches his followers everything from how to pack a toiletries kit to how to make themselves at home in a small hotel room to how to appreciate a religious tradition they may have been raised to despise. (In order to enjoy St. Peter’s Basilica, Steves admits, he had to learn to “park my Protestant sword at the door.”) He is a sort of spiritual travel agent for America’s curious but hesitant middle classes. He is simultaneously goofy and dead serious he can ping, in an instant, from golly-gee Pollyanna cheerfulness to deep critiques of the modern world. In a series of long, affectionate, candid conversations, Steves’s colleagues described him to me using the words “sophomoric,” “knucklehead” and “Santa Claus” — but also “juggernaut,” 𠇎vangelical” and “revolutionary.” Rick Steves wants us to travel because it’s fun, yes, but also because he believes it might actually save the world.

I can testify, firsthand, to the power of Rick Steves. In 1998, he spoke at my college. Nothing about the encounter seemed promising. Our campus was a tiny outpost in a tiny town, and Steves delivered his talk not in some grand lecture hall but in a drab room in the basement of the student union. I was poor, shy, anxious, sheltered, repressed and extremely pale. I was a particular kind of Pacific Northwest white guy — blind to myself and my place in the world. I had never really traveled I was more comfortable on Greyhound buses than on airplanes. Going to Europe seemed like something aristocrats did, like fox hunting or debutante balls.

My girlfriend dragged me to the talk. I had never even heard of Steves. He entered looking like the kind of guy who would bring an acoustic guitar to every single church picnic within a two-hour radius of his favorite Applebee’s: large glasses, floppy hair, bluejeans, wholesome grin. But what he said over the next hour or so changed the rest of my life.

It’s hard to describe how thoroughly energized Steves becomes in front of a crowd. He paces, gesticulates and speaks very fast. He tells his favorite old jokes as if they were eternally new. (�t smells like zee feet of angels,” the French cheesemonger always exclaims.) Onstage, he is a combination of preacher, comedian, salesman, life-hacker, professor and inspirational speaker. Steves told us, that day, how to pack our entire lives into a single bag measuring 9 by 22 by 14 inches. (“It’s enlightened to pack light,” Steves insists. “It’s a blessing to pack light.”) He told us how to find excellent cheap hotels, how to survive on minimalist picnics in public parks, how to wash clothing in bathroom sinks and how to make friends without sharing a language. Steves’s signature book, 𠇎urope Through the Back Door,” seemed less like a travel philosophy than a whole mode of being: scrappy, prepared, independent, extroverted. Europe’s front door, he told us, was positioned to feed travelers directly into exploitation: overpriced cafes, trinket shops, long lines, corporate high-rise hotels. The back door, by contrast, led to revelations. He showed us impossibly enticing photos: cobblestone piazzas teeming with fruit stalls, quirky wooden hotels among wildflowers in the Alps, vast arsenals of multicolored cheese. He made travel seem less like a luxury than a necessary exploration of the self, a civic responsibility, a basic courtesy to your fellow humans. It seemed almost unreasonable not to go. Above all, Steves told us, do not be afraid. The people of the world are wonderful, and the planet we share is spectacular. But the only way to really understand that is to go and see it for yourself. So go.

My girlfriend and I left the room converts to the gospel of Rick Steves. We bought his book and highlighted it to near-meaninglessness. We started mapping itineraries, squirreling away money, asking relatives for donations. (In probably the worst phone call of my life, my rancher grandfather expressed shock and dismay that I would ask him to support this meaningless overseas lark.) Eventually, over many months, we scraped together just enough to buy plane tickets and order minimalist Steves-approved supplies, including a travel towel so thin and nonabsorbent that it seemed to just push the moisture around your skin until you forgot you were wet. We packed exactly as Steves taught us: T-shirts rolled into space-saving noodles, just enough clothes to get us from one hotel laundry session to the next. Then, for the first time in our lives, we left North America.

One of Steves’s strongest recommendations is to keep a journal. Mine was so corny that its cover actually said 𠇊 TRAVELER’S NOTEBOOK” over a picture of the Eiffel Tower. When I opened it recently, the reality of that long-ago trip hissed out with fresh urgency. My 20-year-old self recorded everything. On our first day in Europe, we bought imported Austrian apples with fat, heavy English coins and saw a woman stumble on a staircase, breaking an entire bag of newly bought china. We arrived at our first hostel, the Y.M.C.A. in Bath, to find a man urinating in the stairwell — so we kept walking until we happened into a nearby churchyard, where the gravestones were so old and thin they were almost translucent. As we tried to make out the names of the dead, songbirds sang strenuously in the trees all around us. This juxtaposition — old death, new life — blew my jet-lagged American mind. 𠇊lready, after just one day in Bath,” I wrote in my journal, “the world has grown firmer. Reality fills its gaps.”

That, more or less, was the theme of the trip. For six weeks, we followed the Steves game plan. We shared squalid bunks with other young travelers from Denmark, Australia, Canada and Japan. In the stately public parks of Paris, we ate rotisserie chickens with our bare hands. One stifling afternoon at the Colosseum in Rome, we watched a worker slam his ladder against the edge of an arch and break off some ancient bricks. (He looked over at us, looked down at the bricks, kicked dirt over them and kept working.) We were moved by Van Gogh, Picasso and Gaudí, but unmoved by Versailles (“more vain than beautiful,” I wrote), bullfighting (“more brutal than artful”) and Goya (“vague and blurry”). Once, I left my underwear on a Mediterranean beach overnight and, since I could not afford to lose a pair, had to go back and pick it up the next day, in full view of all the sunbathers.

Wherever we went, Rick Steves was with us. In my journal, I referred to him half-jokingly as our “worldly uncle and guiding light,” and as we walked around, I annoyed my girlfriend by doing impressions of him. We seemed to have entered the world of his slides: the fruit markets and overnight trains, the sunny French river under the ancient Roman aqueduct. Sometimes our European hosts, with the quiet pride of someone who once met Elvis, told us stories about Steves. He was a gentleman, they said, a truly good man, and he always came in person to check out their hotels, and he never failed to ask them how their children were doing.

By the end of our trip, we were completely broke. We couldn’t afford even a baguette on our last day in Paris. We flew home looking ragged, shaggy, weather-beaten and exhausted.

But of course Steves was right: Our lives were never the same. We were still young Americans, but we felt liberated and empowered, like true citizens of the world. The most important things we learned all had to do with home. As the English writer G.K. Chesterton once put it, in a quote I found printed in my corny old travel journal: “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” After looking at a Roman stone wall topped by a Saxon stone wall topped by a medieval English wall next to a modern paved street, I began to see what a thin crust of national history the United States actually stands on. I began to realize how silly and narrow our notion of exceptionalism is — this impulse to consider ourselves somehow immune to the forces that shape the rest of the world. The environment I grew up in, with its malls and freeways, its fantasies of heroic individualism, began to seem unnatural. I started to sense how much reality exists elsewhere in the world — not just in a theoretical sense, in books and movies, but with the full urgent weight of the real. And not just in Europe but on every other continent, all the time, forever. I began to realize how much I still had to learn before I could pretend to understand anything. Not everyone needs Steves’s help to get to this point. Some people get there themselves, or their communities help them. But I needed him, and I am eternally glad I was dragged that day to see him talk.

Steves answered his front door slightly distracted. I had come in the middle of his breakfast preparations. He was stirring a block of frozen orange juice into a pitcher of water. 𠇏reshly squeezed from the can!” he quipped. This was April 2018, exactly 20 years after my first trip to Europe. I had come to see Steves in the most exotic place possible: his home. He lives just north of Seattle, in a town so rainy it has a free umbrella-share program. There is nothing particularly exotic about the house itself. It has beige carpeting, professionally trimmed shrubs and a back deck with a hot tub. What was exotic was simply that Steves was there. He had just returned from his frenetic speaking tour of the United States and would be leaving almost immediately on his annual trip to Europe. For now, he was making breakfast: frozen blueberries, Kashi cereal, O.J. “I would eat this every day for the rest of my life if I could,” he said.

But of course, he could not. Steves is gone too much, yo-yoing between the misty forests of the Pacific Northwest and the sun-baked cathedrals of Europe. Every year, no matter what else is going on, Steves spends at least four months practicing the kind of travel he has preached for 40-odd years: hauling his backpack up narrow staircases in cheap hotels, washing his clothes in sinks, improvising picnics.

He is now 63, and he could afford to retire many times over. But he doesn’t have the metabolism for sitting around. Among his colleagues, Steves is a notorious workaholic. After grueling days of filming in Europe, he has been known to slip script revisions under the crew’s doors at 2 a.m., and then to ask them, at breakfast, for their feedback. On long car rides, he sits in the back seat and types op-eds on his laptop. His relentless hands-on control of every aspect of his business is what has distinguished the Rick Steves brand.

It is also, obviously, exhausting — if not for Steves, then at least for the people around him. He has two children, now grown, and for much of their childhoods, Steves was gone. He was building his company, changing the world. For very long stretches, his wife was forced to be a single mother. (She and Steves divorced in 2010 after 25 years of marriage.) Every summer, when the family joined Steves in Europe, his pace hardly slackened: They would cover major cities in 48 hours, blitzing through huge museums back to back. The kids complained so much, on one trip, that Steves finally snapped — if they were so miserable, he said, they could just go sit in the hotel room all day and play video games. They remember this day as heaven. One year, while Steves was away, the children converted to Catholicism. His son, Andy Steves, eventually went into the family business: He now works as a tour guide and even published a European guidebook.

Steves is fully aware that his obsessive work ethic is unusual. He admits that he has regrets. But he cannot make himself stop. He has the fervor of the true evangelist: The more people he meets, the more cities he visits, the more lives he might change. At one point, as we talked, he pulled out the itinerary for his coming trip — from Sicily to Iceland, with no down time whatsoever. Just looking at it made him giddy. I asked why he couldn’t ease up slightly — maybe just spend two months in Europe, maybe just speak in 10 American cities.

“It’s a strange thing,” he said. “I get energy from it. It’s like I’m breathing straight oxygen. What would I do if I stayed home? Not much. Nothing I would remember.”

In his house, Steves offered up a little show and tell. He pointed out an antique silver cigarette lighter shaped like the Space Needle. He sat down at his baby grand piano and lost himself, for a few happy minutes, playing Scarlatti. He took me to a room filled with books and reached up to a very high shelf. “I don’t show this to too many people,” he said, �use they’ll think I’m nuts.” Steves pulled down a thick red binder, the contents of which were, indeed, pretty nutty. When Steves was 13, he decided, for no apparent reason, to conduct a deep statistical analysis of the 1968 Billboard pop charts. Every week, he would clip the rankings out of his local newspaper and, using a point system of his own devising, graph the top bands’ success on sheets of gridded paper. The lines were multicolored and interwoven — it looked like the subway map of some fantastical foreign city. You could see, at a glance, the rising and falling fortunes of the Beatles (red) and Creedence Clearwater Revival (black) and Elvis Presley (dots and dashes). Steves kept this up for three years, taping together many pieces of graph paper, and in the end he summarized the data in an authoritative-looking table that he typed on the family typewriter. This is what was in that binder: a systematic breakdown of the most successful bands from 1968 to 1970, as determined by the objective statistics of an analytical adolescent weirdo. (The winners, of course, were the Beatles — 1,739 points — followed by Creedence, Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Diamond.)

Steves laughed. It was ridiculous. But it was also a perfect window into his mind. Even at 13, a powerful energy was coiled inside him — an unusual combination of obsession and precision, just waiting for some worthwhile project to burst out in.

And that, coincidentally, was exactly when he found it: the project of his life. In the summer of 1969, when Steves was 14, his parents took him to Europe. They owned a business tuning and importing pianos, and they wanted to see factories firsthand. Steves approached this first trip abroad with the same meticulous energy he brought to his Billboard graphs. As he traveled around the continent, he recorded the essential data of his journey on the backs of postcards: locations, activities, weather, expenses. One day, Steves spent 40 cents on fishing gear. Another, he met a 79-year-old man who had witnessed the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. To keep everything in order, Steves numbered the postcards sequentially. He still has them all packed lovingly into an old wooden box.

On that same formative trip, the Steves family visited relatives in Norway. They happened to be there in July 1969, when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. “Ett lite skritt for et menneske,” the television said, “ett stort sprang for menneskeheten.” In that moment, in that strange place, young Rick Steves felt the concept of “menneskeheten” — “mankind” — at a depth he never would have been able to access back home. Europe was a crash course in cultural relativity. In a park in Oslo, he had an epiphany: The foreign humans around him, he realized, were leading existences every bit as rich and full as his own. “Right there,” he would write later, “my 14-year-old egocentric worldview took a huge hit.” A life-changing realization clicked into place. “This planet must be home to billions of equally lovable children of God.”

That first trip set the course for everything that followed. When Steves was 18, he went back to Europe without his parents. Soon, life in America became a series of interludes between travel. He taught piano to earn money, then stretched that money as far as he possibly could, sleeping on church pews and park benches, in empty barns and construction zones, from Western Europe to Afghanistan. He turned his cheapness into a science. Instead of paying for a hotel room in a city, Steves would use his Railpass and sleep on a train for the night — four hours out, four hours back. He would stuff himself on free breakfast bread, then try to eat as little as possible for the rest of the day. Naturally, he recorded all this, and today he has an impressive archive of old travel journals. Their pages preserve, in tiny handwriting, shadowy young dissidents in Moscow, diarrhea in Bulgaria, revolution in Nicaragua.

In his 20s, Steves brought his wide-roaming wisdom back to the United States. He started to supplement his piano teaching with travel seminars. His signature class, European Travel Cheap, ran for six hours. Steves could have talked longer than that, but it struck him as impractical for his students. In Europe, he rented a nine-seat minibus and started to lead small tours. Eventually, his seminars and tour notes morphed into his books. The first edition of 𠇎urope Through the Back Door,” published in 1980, was typed on a rented IBM Selectric. It had no ISBN and looked so amateurish that bookstores assumed it was an early review copy. 𠇊nyone caught reprinting any material herein for any purpose whatsoever will be thanked profusely,” it said. This was the birth of the Rick Steves empire.

Rick Steves both is and is not his TV persona. Offscreen, he allows himself to be much more explicitly political. He has the passion of the autodidact. Growing up, Steves led a relatively sheltered existence: He was a white, comfortable, middle-class baby boomer in a white, comfortable, middle-class pocket of America. Travel did for him what he promises it will do for everyone else: It put him in contact with other realities. He saw desperate poverty in Iran and became obsessed with economic injustice. He started searching for answers in books, scribbling notes in the margins of 𠇋read for the World,” by Arthur Simon, and “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” by Hannah Arendt. He studied the war industry and colonial exploitation. The first time Steves traveled to Central America, he came back so outraged that he wrote a fiery tract called “There’s Blood on Your Banana,” then flew to Washington and hand-delivered a copy to the office of every member of Congress.

In the early days, Steves injected political lessons into his European tours. Sometimes he would arrive in a city with no hotel reservations, just to make his privileged customers feel the anxiety of homelessness. In Munich, he would set up camp in an infamous hippie circus tent, among all the countercultural wanderers of Europe.

Today, Steves is more strategic. His most powerful tool, he realizes, is his broad appeal. He has an uncanny knack for making serious criticism feel gentle and friendly. Often he disguises critiques of America with a rhetorical move that I like to think of as “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! (But. . )” “I’m unapologetically proud to be an American,” he writes in the introduction to his book “Travel as a Political Act.” “The happiest day of any trip is the day I come home. . But other nations have some pretty good ideas too.”

That’s when he hits his audience with legal prostitution, high tax rates and universal health care.

When I asked Steves about this strategy, he chuckled.

“It’s not America-bashing,” he said. “It’s America-loving. I think it’s loving America to look at it critically. But you’ve got to set it up. You’ve got to allay people’s concerns that you’re a communist. So you explain to them: I’m a capitalist, I make a lot of money, I employ a lot of people, I love the laws of supply and demand. It seems kind of silly, but you’ve got to say that. Then, especially the husbands who are dragged there by their wives, they go, ‘I thought he was a commie, but he’s O.K.’ And then you don’t need to be too gentle. You can confront people with a different perspective, and you’ll get through.”

Steves learned this strategy, he said, from his early days running tours, living with the same people for weeks at a time. Survival required being pleasant. People didn’t want grating lectures about America’s shortcomings — even if that was sometimes his instinct. Instead, he pointed out different perspectives with a smile. He became fluent in the needs of American tourists. “I know what their buttons are,” he said. “I know what their attention span is. I don’t want to just preach to the choir. I want to preach to organizations that need to hear this, so I need to compromise a little bit so the gatekeepers let it through to their world.”

This balancing act has become increasingly difficult over the past two decades, in a world of terrorism, war, nationalism and metastasizing partisanship. After the Sept. 11 attacks, most travel companies anticipated that the bottom was about to fall out of the market. They canceled tours and cut back budgets. Steves, however, remained defiantly optimistic. He promised his staff that there would be no cuts, no layoffs and no shift in message. He insisted that a world in crisis needed travel more, not less. Soon the shock of Sept. 11 turned into the Iraq war, which strained the relationship between the United States and even its closest European allies, sending the travel industry deeper into its trough. In his hometown, Steves caused a controversy when he walked around removing rows of American flags that had been set up in support of the war. It was, he argued, an act of patriotism: The flag is meant to represent all Americans, not just war supporters. “I was shark-bait on Seattle’s right-wing radio talk shows for several days,” he wrote.

Lately, Steves concedes, his political message has begun to take over his teaching. In “Travel as a Political Act,” the familiar elements of his guidebooks — walking tours, museum guides, hotel reviews — are replaced by rabble-rousing cultural critique. Steves expresses deep admiration for Scandinavian-style social democracy and calls out many of America’s faults: our addiction to cars and guns and mass incarceration our deference to corporations our long history of cultural imperialism (“one of the ugliest things one nation can do is write another nation’s textbooks”). Some moments in the book verge on un-American. “Sometimes, when I’m frustrated with the impact of American foreign policy on the developing world,” Steves writes, “I have this feeling that an impotent America is better for the world than an America whose power isn’t always used for good.”

Occasionally, despite his best efforts, Steves still ruffles feathers. Recent TV specials have covered Iran — “I believe if you’re going to bomb a place,” Steves has written, “you should know its people first” — and the rise of fascism in Europe. In a special about the Holy Land, Steves refers unapologetically to “Palestine” instead of “the West Bank” or “Palestinian territories” some viewers were so outraged that they told Steves they were removing PBS from their wills. After one recent speech in the Deep South, event organizers refused to pay Steves — their conservative sponsors, he learned, considered his message a form of liberal propaganda.

In recent years, Steves has become a happy warrior for an unlikely cause: the legalization of marijuana. He first tried the drug in Afghanistan, in the 1970s, in the name of cultural immersion, and he was fascinated by its effect on his mind. Today, he is a board member of Norml, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and a regular speaker at Hempfest. In his headquarters you will find a poster of the Mona Lisa holding a gargantuan spliff. In 2012, Steves campaigned hard for Washington State’s successful legalization initiative, and since then he has barnstormed other states (Oregon, Maine, Vermont and more) to make sure the civil liberties are properly passed around. On a shelf in his living room, right there among all the European knickknacks, Steves displays a sizable bong.

Sometimes, fans urge Steves to run for office. When I asked him if he would ever get into politics, he had an answer ready: “I already am.” Good travel teaching, in his eyes, is inherently political. To stay in a family-owned hotel in Bulgaria is to strengthen global democracy to pack light is to break the iron logic of consumerism to ride a train across Europe is to challenge the fossil-fuel industry. Travel, to Steves, is not some frivolous luxury — it is an engine for improving humankind, for connecting people and removing their prejudices, for knocking distant cultures together to make unlikely sparks of joy and insight. Given that millions of people have encountered the work of Steves over the last 40 years, on TV or online or in his guidebooks, and that they have carried those lessons to untold other millions of people, it is fair to say that his life’s work has had a real effect on the collective life of our planet. When people tell Steves to stay out of politics, to stick to travel, he can only laugh.

“It’s flattering to think I could run for office,” he admitted. 𠇊nd it would be exciting. But I think I’m accomplishing more right now than I would in office, and I’m having more fun. I’m skiing with beautiful wax on my skis. When I want to do something, I can do it.”

Steves is deeply indifferent to creature comforts. When I visited him, the back seat of his car was covered with a greenish slime, practically disintegrating, because of a mysterious leak. He just cracked the windows to try to dry it out. Steves prefers to spend his money on his favorite causes. His activism can be quirky and impulsive. In 2011, after hearing that his local symphony orchestra was struggling, he stepped in with a gift of $1 million, spread over 10 years, to help keep it operating. (This, pointedly, was how much money he would get back from President George W. Bush’s tax cut over a decade.) Last year, during a chat with one of the national leaders of the Lutheran Church, Steves wondered how much it would cost to send every single Lutheran congregation in the United States a DVD of his recent TV special about Martin Luther. It was something like $30,000 Steves happily wrote the check. In the 1990s, working in partnership with the Y.W.C.A., he started investing his retirement savings in local real estate in order to house homeless mothers and their children. The plan was to take that money out of the banking system and let it do a few decades of social good, at which point Steves could sell the buildings to fund his retirement. Eventually he worked his way up to buying a whole 24-unit apartment complex — and then he donated it outright to the Y.W.C.A. The mothers, he said, needed it more than he would.

Steves is obsessed with the problem of poverty and amazed at our perpetual misunderstanding of it. “It’s not just: You screwed up, so you’re poor,” he said. “There’s a structure that keeps half of humanity poor. This needs to be talked about. I can do it, and I can get away with it.” His next TV special, in production now, will investigate extreme poverty and hunger through two very different non-European countries: Guatemala and Ethiopia. In the meantime, all the royalties of his latest book — an updated edition of “Travel as a Political Act” — are being donated to Bread for the World, an organization that lobbies on behalf of hungry people. He is working on making his company’s tours completely carbon-neutral.

“If I was trying to build a career on the speaking circuit — if I was struggling, and I needed these gigs — I would not talk about that stuff,” he said. “I could just talk about light stuff, and everybody would love it. But I’m not working right now to do that. I’m not trying to get anywhere that I’m not already. I don’t need to be anything I’m not. I’m 63 years old. I could retire now. But I’m ramping up.”

Indeed, Steves’s business has been booming. Once the travel market finally recovered, some years after Sept. 11, Steves occupied a disproportionately big share of it — precisely because he had refused to scale back. By taking a principled stand, Steves flourished. Today, his chipper voice is reaching more Americans than ever. �r,” as Steves likes to say, “is for people who don’t get out very much.”

One night, in his living room, Steves pulled out a plain black notebook. “Here’s something you might find interesting,” he said with his trademark cheer, and he flipped open to a random page and prepared to read aloud. I was familiar, by then, with Steves’s deep archive of old travel journals, and so I settled in to listen to further adventures from 1975 Moscow or 1997 Paris. This, however, was something else entirely — a record of a very different kind of journey.

“Getting high,” Steves read, “releases the human in me.”

“Intelligence is a rubber band,” he continued. “Getting high is stretching it.”

I was sitting in the beige living room of America’s foremost travel guru, underneath framed reproductions of popular European masterworks, and my mind was about to be well and truly blown. For the next 20 minutes, Steves would read me koans about the glories of being stoned.

“High is the present,” he read.

“When you’re high, you debate long and hard over whether to put on your sweater or turn up the heat.”

This journal, Steves explained, contained what he called his “High Notes.” For nearly 40 years, he had been writing in it exclusively after smoking marijuana. He would get baked, open up to somewhere in the middle and jot down whatever he happened to be thinking — deep or shallow, silly or angry. There is no chronology on every page, axioms from many different decades commingle. It is a lifelong treasury of Steves’s stoner thoughts.

𠇊s soon as I stop mattering so much, I’ll be happier.”

𠇊 baby doesn’t know if the hanging is on the wall or if the wall is on the hanging.”

“Make a rug with vacuum marks, so it always looks freshly vacuumed.”

The entries covered an impressively wide territory. Some were little shreds of oracular poetry (“We all have a divine harness”), while others were dashed-off semi-witticisms (“Wolfgang von Bewildered”) or bitter social critiques (“The spiritual cesspool of America — our shopping malls”). “They don’t let you into heaven without calluses on your soul,” he read at one point. “Suffer or weep.” There were scraps of humorous dialogue (“ ‘Nothing is wrong with an ego!’ he bellowed”) and sentences that would have made great bumper stickers on rusting VW buses: “I𠆝 like to be quarantined from reality.”

I found myself wondering, for the thousandth time: Who does this? What kind of mind not only thinks of such a project but actually follows through with it, decade after decade after decade? Who, for God’s sake, is this disciplined when they’re high?

As Steves read, he interrupted himself again and again with great shouting honks of laughter, and I cackled right along with him. Then, suddenly, with almost no transition, we would find ourselves deep in earnest conversation about the nature of true happiness or the dangers of ambition. And then we would suddenly be cackling again. We were, in other words, getting high on Steves’s “High Notes.”

“I’ve been craning my mind to see you,” he said.

“I feel like a hungry bird, but I won’t eat any worm I don’t like.”

Steves showed me complex analytical graphs about true love and divorce rates, about the way music sounds when you’re high versus sober, about the degrees of honesty possible with the various people in your life. (“Scale of Unconditional Regard,” this last one was called.) One page of the journal had a strand of hair taped to it, labeled “split end.” There was a drawing of a woman’s breasts. And of course there were many, many more descriptions of getting high itself. “Getting high is like roasting an English muffin,” Steves read. “You start out cold and doughy, and you toast it to a crisp brown, and just a little more and you get all black and burned.”

At some point, he looked up from the journal. “To me,” he said, “this is a precious thing. Because this is me.”

“Time spent socially is time spent at the expense of personal betterment,” he said.

He shook his head. That’s how he had thought when he was young. “That’s my problem,” he added ruefully. “I work all the time.”

“When I die,” he read, “scatter me all over the budget hotels of Europe.”

Sam Anderson is a staff writer at the magazine and the author of 𠇋oom Town,” a book about Oklahoma City. In 2017, he won a National Magazine Award for his article about Michelangelo’s �vid.” Zachary Scott is a photographer known for his humorous and highly stylized work, which has been featured in the magazine’s Year in Ideas and Comedy Issues.

Correction March 22, 2019

An earlier version of this article misstated the size of a bus Steves used in his early tours through Europe. It was a nine-seat minibus, not a nine-foot minibus.


All the Secret Good Stuff at Pike Place Market

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S eattle is blessed with one of the nation's best public markets. In it, one can find a staggering array of culinary delights, from the practical (cheap, fresh produce and meat, bulk spices, a quick lunch for less than $10) to the exotic (quail eggs, pig heads, and $400-per-pound foraged truffles). But many Seattleites avoid Pike Place Market. Why?

The answer has a lot to do with the market's status as one of Seattle's major tourist attractions. While, yes, it's a charmingly quirky place where you can take a photo of your kids climbing on the pig statue, watch burly men sling salmon around, visit the not-actually-the-first Starbucks, and buy a $300 cedar cutting board for your in-laws, it's also an expansive market where you can satisfy all of your shopping needs.

I worked at the market on and off for five years, and while I've had my share of dodging cruise-ship passengers, maneuvering around triple-wide strollers, and squeezing past crowds at Pike Place Fish Market, I still love the place and partake in its riches weekly. Nearly all of my memorable meals have had their beginnings there. And it pains me to see it underused.

Here's how to take advantage of the best the market has to offer with the least amount of hassle.

How to get there:

Whatever you do, don't drive. Parking downtown is either impossible or outlandishly expensive. If you attempt to snag one of the elusive free parking spots on Pike Place, the quaint brick road that runs through the market, you will most likely end up stuck behind a never-ending mass of gawking tourists. Plus, why would you drive when Pike Place exists at a nexus of public transit?

If you live in the South End, take the light rail to Westlake Station, which is just a few blocks from the market. Those who live north of the Montlake Cut can catch the 71, 72, 73, 74, or any of the upper-70s buses. From Capitol Hill, there are no fewer than seven different buses that will take you within three blocks of Pike Place. Coming from South Lake Union? SLUT it up.

How to get around all the tourists:

If you want to get your shopping done in a timely manner, you need to move like a shark. It's easy to be lulled into a complacent stroll by the pace of the average market-goer, but you must resist this impulse, lest you find yourself stuck behind an impenetrable wall of a family of six. I force myself to walk twice as fast as I think I need to, sidestepping lollygaggers and slipping through cracks in the crowd with ruthless precision. I am also not above stepping out into the street if need be.

Weekends can be pretty hectic, especially during the summer. If you can, swing by on a weekday. I find that going just after the lunch rush but before 5 p.m. yields the quickest shopping.

Where to get meat:

Don and Joe's Meats, hidden behind the ever-present crowd in front of the fish chuckers, has all the basic meats you need and then some (Rocky Mountain oysters, anyone?). Being a full-service butchery, they will also happily break down whole birds, trim fat off steaks, or perform any other meat alterations you may require. They also offer insane bulk deals.

BB Ranch Butcher, in the hallway behind the Can Can, has an interesting selection as well, with a bent toward the specialty stuff. Its offerings include ground lean buffalo, dry aged meats, and pig heads, with some tempting jerky options to boot.

Where to get eggs and dairy products:

At $2.50 per stick, Kerrygold's garlic and herb butter might seem extravagant, but once you make some mashed potatoes with it, you'll understand why it comes wrapped in gold foil. That's just one of the many specialty items you'll find at the Pike Place Market Creamery, which has countless varieties of butter, eggs, and milk. And duck eggs. Ever had a duck-egg croque madame? You should.

If it's cheese you're after, head around the corner to Quality Cheese, which sells every kind you might need—as well as a few you probably don't. The employees are always willing to discuss the finer points of cheese, but won't inundate you with their knowledge. If you just want a quarter pound of feta to crumble on your salad, you won't have to sit through an hour-long discussion of its flavor profile.

Where to get produce:

The market has a plethora of produce vendors, but I'm partial to two: Choice Produce and Frank's Quality Produce.

Choice Produce is most famous for its bouquets of hanging dried peppers and aggressive sample-pushing. (It's located in the Sanitary Market building, which gets its name from the days when folks rode their trusty steed to the market and also let that trusty steed shit where it may. The Sanitary Building was sanitary because it was the market's only animal-free zone.) You can always rely on Choice's staff for honest and reliable recommendations. I once went to buy one of their "OMG" peaches, a summer treat that's advertised throughout the market's various produce stalls, only to be told by longtime fruit-wrangler Swan that the peaches were past their season. Instead, he recommended a Taylor's Gold pear, which tasted better than drinking baby Jesus's sweet tears from a golden chalice. That is not hyperbole.

Frank's is a couple stalls down in the Corner Market building. It has a staggering selection, from frisée to rare mushrooms. If you have a pile of cash lying around, Frank's sometimes carries rare black truffles at $400 per pound. Chances are the chef at your favorite restaurant probably gets occasional odds and ends from Frank's.

Where to get fish:

I like Jack's Fish Spot because, despite its polished website, it's still the crustiest of the market's three fish vendors. In addition to its no-nonsense retail operation, it's got a 10-seat counter where one can get cioppino, fish 'n' chips, or a quick half-dozen raw oysters. The fried fish is fresh as hell and the batter is kept simple, allowing the fish to shine. My one complaint: The last time I tried it, the tartar sauce was made by Kraft, which tasted like seasoned glue. Better to just douse everything in malt vinegar.

As far as the other fish stalls go, City Fish is also an excellent choice. Situated in one of the market arcade's main entry points, it doesn't have a sit-down counter, but it does have a variety of packaged seafood cocktails to go. You can grab a refreshing German lager and a paper bag from Bavarian Meats and take your humble feast to nearby Victor Steinbrueck Park, where the other day drinkers are hanging out. Speaking of Bavarian Meats.

Behold, the glorious panoply of sausage:

I love everything about Bavarian Meats, from the no-bullshit-taking-yet-somehow-sweet-as-pie German ladies manning the counter to the overflowing shelves of imported dry goods to the delicious hot-food menu. But it's the staggering cornucopia of meat that calls to me like the Sirens from behind the shiny glass of the sprawling deli counter. There are so many different types of salami, I have given up counting them. There's also a ridiculous variety of bacon, headcheese, German-style sausages, and some other stuff I am at a loss to categorize. Notable lunches I've had from Bavarian: butterkase, mustard, and a perfectly rich blood-and-tongue sausage on a fresh pretzel roll with a can of Dortmunder. Also, the "Kicker Hauschka" from the "Lynch My Lunch" playoff-themed lunch menu: a grilled link of weisswurst—a texturally elegant sausage made from pork and veal—served on a sea of curried ketchup in a little paper boat.

Where to get brined things:

Though Bavarian Meats may seem like the logical place to get sauerkraut, you'd be better off going to Britt's Pickles, which is right next to BB Ranch. After tasting its hot-and-sour pickles, I will never eat a kosher dill from a jar again. And its kimchi—be it the regular, the White Market, or the Black Market—beats the hell out of some I've had at Korean restaurants. A heap of it atop your scrambled eggs in the morning is magical. Also, black garlic. Put it on a pizza, blend it in some hummus, spread it on toast, or just put it straight on your tongue. You can't go wrong.

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Where to get obscure European delicacies:

DeLaurentiwhose offerings lean heavily toward the "shipped in from Europe" varietyis another market essential. In terms of options, its cheese selection exceeds Quality's (though it's also pricier). Meat-wise, its display case of salami, speck, coppa, prosciutto, and mortadella, among many others, is wondrous. If you can afford to indulge, you can blow some serious cash here. If you can't, you can still score some good deals. The brandied pâté spread, at $10.99 per pound, is way more economical (calorically speaking) than even the cheapest of ramen packages. Get a pound of this delicious meat paste, some Dijon mustard, and a few baguettes for a filling meal. DeLaurenti also has a massive selection of jarred pickled vegetables, oil and vinegar, canned fish (and octopus!), fancy chocolates, wine, fresh bread, and crackers. It even has a pretty good lunch/espresso counter. The sandwiches are always money and the pizza is great when it's fresh.

Where to get all the other things you need to make a meal come together:

Sur la Table's flagship store isn't exactly cheap, but it likely has whatever weird gadget you might need. I love my five-in-one spatula/spreader/slotted spoon/tasting spoon/ritual dagger. There is also Kitchen Basics, tucked away behind the Creamery in the Sanitary Building. If you need a really badass Japanese chef's knife, Seattle Cutlery has you covered.

For spices, stop by Market Spice, where you can buy a multitude of spices by the ounce. It also sells tons of tea and several preblended spices (think herbs de Provence or harissa). The Souk also has a variety of Middle Eastern spices and curries—I'm fond of their yellow curry powder. Close by the Souk is Mexican Grocery, where you can pick up awesome fresh salsas and delectable tamales. For all things Asian, visit the unfortunately named Oriental Mart by Frank's, which also has a purportedly excellent Filipino lunch counter.

How to end your day at Pike Place Market:

Get a dozen tiny doughnuts from Daily Dozen Doughnut Company. They're downright delicious, especially with frosting and sprinkles or cinnamon sugar. Or down a really cold beer at the Athenian, the market's unofficial employee watering hole. It has a wide variety of local brews on tap, all served in extremely frozen mugs. I'm partial to Maritime's Old Seattle Lager, which is rumored to be brewed from the original Rainier recipe. The Athenian also has $1.50 oysters at happy hour and a variety of other delicious fried seafood on the cheap.

Besides the abundance of great food at the market, there's another, oft overlooked benefit of shopping there: Your dollars indirectly contribute to low-income housing for seniors and social services for low-income families in the downtown area, services the Pike Place Market Foundation funds through a combination of donations and earned revenue. If you want to contribute more directly, brush aside the children straddling Rachel the Piggy Bank and slip a dollar in the slot on her neck.


Contents

Traditional shark fin soup or stew is made with fins obtained from a variety of shark species. Raw fins are processed by first removing the skin and denticles before trimming them into shapes and bleaching to a more desirable coloration. [6]

Sharks' fins are sold dried, cooked, wet, and frozen. Ready-to-eat shark fin soup is also readily available in Asian markets. [6]

Dried fins come in cooked and skinned (shredded) and raw and unskinned (whole), the latter requiring more preparation. [7] Both need to be softened before they can be used to prepare soup.

The taste of the soup comes from the broth, as the fins themselves are almost tasteless. [8] Rather than for taste, the fins are used for their "snappy, gelatinous" texture, [8] which has been described as "chewy, sinewy, stringy". [1] Krista Mahr of Time called it "somewhere between chewy and crunchy". [9]

Shark fins are believed in Chinese culture to have properties of boosting sexual potency, enhancing skin quality, increasing qi or energy, preventing heart disease, and lowering cholesterol. [10] In traditional Chinese medicine, shark fins are believed to help in areas of rejuvenation, appetite enhancement, and blood nourishment and to be beneficial to vital energy, kidneys, lungs, bones, and many other parts of the body. [6]

There are claims that shark fins prevent cancer [11] however, there is no scientific evidence, and one study found shark cartilage generally to be of no value in cancer treatment. [12] Furthermore, there is no scientific evidence that shark fins can be used to treat any medical condition. [6] Sharks biomagnify toxins, so eating shark meat may raise the risk of dementia [13] [14] and heavy metal poisoning such as mercury poisoning. [15] [16]

WildAid, a wildlife non-governmental organization, warned that eating too much shark fin can cause sterility in men. [16] It is known that larger fish such as shark, tuna, and swordfish contain high levels of mercury and methylmercury salts. [15] For soon-to-be-pregnant women, pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children, the United States Food and Drug Administration has advised avoiding consumption of fish high in mercury. [17] [18]

High concentrations of BMAA are present in shark fins. Because BMAA is a neurotoxin, consumption of shark fin soup and cartilage pills may pose a risk for degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig Disease, [13] [14] as well as Parkinson's disease. [13]

Counterfeit shark fins often also contain toxins. [19]

Shark fin soup has a long history, but is declining in popularity. [ citation needed ]

Early use Edit

Shark fin soup was reported in Ming dynasty writings and by the Qing dynasty was considered a "a traditional part of formal banquets" in Chinese cuisine, it was considered to be one of the eight treasured foods from the sea. [20] It was popular with Chinese emperors because it was rare, and tasty only after a complicated and elaborate preparation. [21] By the time of the Qing dynasty, shark fin soup was in high demand. [22] [23] Its manual of cuisine, the Suiyuan shidan, indicates that the shark fin was eaten as soup, stew, and even as a stir-fry, but in all cases the fin had to be boiled for two days. [24]

The popularity of shark fin soup rose in the late-18th and early-19th centuries as standards of living began to improve. [1]

Demand peaks, c. 2000 Edit

In the late-20th century, shark fin soup was a popular delicacy in China, and was eaten in Chinese restaurants around the world. [25] [26] The increasing wealth of the middle class raised demand. [27] The shark fin trade more than doubled between 1985 and 2001. [28]

Based on information gathered from the Hong Kong trade in fins, the market was estimated in 2004 to be growing by five percent each year. [29] Consumption of shark fin soup had risen dramatically with the affluence of the middle class, as Chinese communities around the world enjoyed increasing income levels. [1] [28] [30] The high price of the soup meant it was often used as a way to impress guests, or for celebrations [31] such as weddings, banquets, and important business deals. [21] [32] [33] It was used to communicate wealth, power, and prestige, [32] [33] as it was believed to show respect, honor, and appreciation to guests, [21] [10] with 58% of those questioned in the WWF survey indicating they ate the soup at a celebration or gathering. [34]

In Hong Kong restaurants, where the market had been strong, demand from Hong Kong natives had reportedly dropped in 2006. This was more than balanced by an increase in demand from the Chinese mainland, [31] where economic growth put the expensive delicacy within the reach of an expanding middle class. [27]

A survey carried out in China in 2006 by WildAid and the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association found that 35% of participants said they had consumed shark fin soup in the last year, [25] while 83% of participants in an online survey conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature said that they had consumed shark fin soup at some time. [34]

Demand declines, 2005–present Edit

By late-2013, a report in The Washington Post indicated that shark fin soup was no longer seen as fashionable in China.

The movement against shark fin soup began in 2006, when WildAid enlisted Chinese basketball star Yao Ming as spokesperson for a public relations campaign against the dish. The campaign was taken up by a coalition of Chinese businessmen, celebrities, and students. Businessman-turned-environmentalist Jim Zhang helped to raise concern within China's government, which pledged in 2012 to ban shark fin soup from official banquets within three years. [35]

In January 2013, China Daily reported that officials in Zhejiang province found that many shark fin soup restaurants were selling artificial shark fins, and that one-third of the samples that the officials had obtained contained dangerous amounts of cadmium and methylmercury. [19] Within two months of the China Daily report, China ordered officials throughout the country to stop serving dishes made from protected wildlife at official banquets, and the Hong Kong government issued a similar order in September. [35]

Consumption of shark fin soup in China has decreased. China's Ministry of Commerce indicated that consumption of shark fin soup during the 2013 spring break holiday had decreased by 50–70%, and from 2012, and Hong Kong industry groups reported that shark fin imports were down by 20–30% from 2012. [35] Also, anecdotal evidence points to a worldwide drop in shark fin prices and a move away from shark fishing in parts of Africa. [35]

Shark fins used in the soup are the cartilaginous dorsal, pectoral and caudal fins. These are regularly harvested by a process known as shark finning, which takes only the fins and discards the carcass, alive or dead. [36] Overfishing poses a major threat to the world's shark populations. [37]

Some groups, such as Fins Attached, Shark Savers, IUCN, Shark Angels, Shark Whisperer and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, discourage consumption of the soup due to concerns with the world's shark population and how sharks are inhumanely finned alive and returned to the ocean, unable to swim, hunt or survive. The prevalence of shark finning and the sustainability of shark species are both debated. [38] [39] [40] As of 2011, major hotel operators such as Marriott International, The Peninsula Hotels and Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts stopped serving shark fin soup in favor of offering sustainable seafood. [41] [42] The largest supermarket chains in Singapore - Cold Storage and NTUC FairPrice - have stopped selling shark fins, citing sustainability concerns. [43] Hong Kong Disneyland dropped the soup from its menu after it could not find a sustainable source. [44]

Malaysia's Natural Resources and Environment Ministry banned shark fin soup from official functions in a commitment to the Malaysian Nature Society to conserve the shark species. [45]

In the United States, Hawaii, [46] Washington, [47] Oregon, [48] [49] California, [50] Guam, [51] and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands have banned the sale and possession of shark fins, effectively eliminating the availability of the soup. [52] Illinois, which had been a large importer of shark fins, was the fifth U.S. state, and the first non-Pacific state, to implement a ban on shark fin trade. [53] In 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act, closing loopholes used to obtain shark fins. [54] In October 2011, California governor Jerry Brown, citing the cruelty of finning and potential threats to the environment and commercial fishing, signed Assembly Bill 376, banning the possession and sale of detached shark fins. [50] [55] Two Chinese American groups challenged the law in federal court, arguing among other things that it was discriminatory against the Chinese-American community. The federal courts rejected these claims. [56]

In Canada, the Vancouver city council decided to work towards creating a ban to preserve shark species. [57] Toronto joined other regional municipalities in adopting a shark fin ban on 13 October 2011. [58] The Ontario Superior Court of Justice overturned the Toronto bylaw, as it was outside the powers of the city. [59] Calgary banned shark fin soup on 16 July 2012, [60] but in May 2013 shelved the bylaw indefinitely. [61]

On 2 July 2012, the State Council of the People's Republic of China declared that shark fin soup can no longer be served at official banquets. This ban may take up to three years to take effect because of the social significance of the dish in Chinese culture. [62]

The marine conservation organization Bite-Back has campaigned against the sale of shark fin soup in Britain. On the back of its campaigning, the London-based Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant Hakkasan agreed to stop selling the controversial soup. [63] High-profile names such as Gordon Ramsay, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and Charles Clover, author of The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat, have lent their support to the charity's 'Hacked Off' campaign. [64] In 2019, environmental NGO WildAid partnered with Plan B Media on a public awareness campaign to discourage sharkfin soup consumption in Taiwan. [65]

Imitation shark fin soup is a noodle soup often sold in small bowls by street vendors in Hong Kong, where it is a common street snack. It is a substitute for shark fin soup. Imitation shark fin soup is also a more affordable alternative to shark fin soup. [66]

A popular, low-cost imitation shark fin soup (碗仔翅) made using vermicelli is widely available in Asia. [67] [68] They can also be made from cellophane noodles. [69] [8] Seafood companies in Asia later developed edible gelatinous products to imitate shark fins' qualities, commonly referred as "imitation shark fins".

Imitation shark fins Edit

Substitutes for shark include imitation shark fin, konjac gel, various forms of noodles, and others. "Mock shark's fin" soup appeared in Hong Kong during the 1970s. From the 1990s onward, it became popular in restaurants throughout China. The shark fin is replaced with an imitation and edible mushrooms, kelps, seaweeds, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, and beaten eggs are added, as in the traditional soup.

Imitation shark fin (素翅), typically from Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, is known as suchì in Chinese Mandarin and sou ci in Chinese Cantonese, literally means "vegetarian fin". A Taiwanese manufacturer's recipe for it contains water, gelatin, alginic acid, sugar, casein, and triolein to reproduce the chewy, gelatinous texture of shark fins. However, some of these imitations absorb the broth more quickly than the real shark fin. [70] Konjac gel (known as moyu tofu in Chinese Mandarin, mo wu dau fu in Chinese Cantonese, and konnyaku in Japanese) can also be used as a substitute for shark fin once it is julienned into thin strands using a chef's knife, produce slicer, or food processor. [71] [72] While cellophane noodles are also often used as an alternative to shark fins, [69] some cooks find them too soft and unable to withstand simmering long enough for flavors to be absorbed, consequently the imitation shark fin or julienned konjac gel are more desirable. Other substitutes include Cucurbita ficifolia (shark fin melon, shark fin soup squash), chicken breast, jinhua ham, vermicelli, soy, sea cucumber, bird's nest, pig's skin and gelatin. [73]

In 2015, a seafood company from San Francisco was working on a variation of imitation shark fin using algae-derived ingredients and recombinant proteins. [74]

Alternatives to shark fin are inexpensive and easier to prepare. Imitation shark fin, konjac gel, and other alternatives can be purchased in preserved form from Asian supermarkets and convenience stores.

History Edit

Imitation shark fin soup originated from Temple Street in Hong Kong during the 1950s and 1960s. [66] Few people at that time could afford genuine shark fin soup, but street vendors collected the broken parts of shark fins discarded by Chinese restaurants and cooked them with mushrooms, egg, and pork, as well as soy sauce and other ingredients. The mixture, which was cooked into a soup, was served in a small bowl. Although this soup was inexpensive and lacked the authentic flavor, since it was cheap, tasty and contained many ingredients, it was popular among the poor and became one of the famous street snacks of Hong Kong.

Apart from the street vendor version, imitation shark fin soup may also be found in fast-food stores and expensive Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong, and also on mainland China. Since April 2016, Cup Noodles released various instant imitation shark fin ramen soups. [75]

Controversy Edit

False descriptions of goods and services are prohibited by the Trade Descriptions Ordinance in Hong Kong. [76] Thus, imitation shark fin soup may have to change its Cantonese name since "wun tsai chi" (literally: "fin in little bowl") may mislead customers into thinking there is real shark fin in it. However, many argue against this new policy some claim that the name is tied to the Hong Kong people's collective memories and culture, representing the history of old Hong Kong. It would also be inconvenient for tourists seeking the dish. Opponents of the name change suggest the government should consider whether customers are misled before carrying out the policy.


More about Hong Kong food

Due to Hong Kong’s past as a British colony and a long history of being an international port of commerce – Hong Kong has today earned a reputation for being one of the best food destinations in the world.

Hong Kong offers a unique food experience with everything from cheep and delicious street food to upscale restaurants serving interesting dishes. This is a place that provides dining experiences for all different kinds of budgets, which makes it such a popular destination among the food-lovers.

What is the national dish in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong doesn’t have an official national dish. However, Roast Goose is considered by many locals to be the national dish of Hong Kong.

What is a typical breakfast in Hong Kong?

A traditional breakfast in Hong Kong includes noodles, egg, and meat, together with milk tea and bread. Macaroni with egg, bread and milk tea is also a common breakfast food in Hong Kong.

Is it safe to eat street food in Hong Kong?

Yes, generally it’s safe to eat street food in Hong Kong. Just make sure that the food you’re buying is properly cooked and served hot.

Photo: MosayMay / Shutterstock.com

Do you have more questions about Hong Kong food and cuisine? Leave a comment below!


Watch the video: Η Ελλάδα με τα μάτια των Ρώσων τουριστών ελληνικοί υπότιτλοι


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