I just got off the phone with Lenny Russo, chef and owner of St. Paul’s Heartland, and he just told me the craziest thing. Now, Heartland, if you don’t know, is the St. Paul locavore extraordinaire restaurant which usually busies itself redefining Midwestern cuisine and saving the planet by only serving foods from within our local foodshed, reviving interest in local ingredients like chokecherries, goose, lake perch, and so on. Okay, okay, the locavore thing—you get it. But get this: The next level in green eating involves driving a critter to extinction, for a good cause.
The critter? The invasive Chinese crayfish that are taking over Wisconsin waters. “The Wisconsin DNR was having a problem with these Chinese crayfish that had gotten into lakes and ponds,” Russo told me. “They’re doing two kinds of damage. One, they’re choking out native crayfish species, and two, they’re voracious eaters, so they’re eating local tadpoles out of house and home, which is devastating frog populations. They asked, ‘Will you take them?’ I said sure.”
And so now, until the lakes freeze, there will be Wisconsin crayfish—invasive, evil, tasty Wisconsin crayfish—on Heartland’s menu, a freemarket solution to an environmental disaster. And you thought the best you could do was to do no harm to the environment. But here you can actually help endangered species by stuffing your pie-hole. And you can lord it over your vegan friends: Oh, you think you have the most virtuous diet? Not any more you don’t!
If you go tonight, Russo thinks the crayfish—which taste just like regular old American crayfish—will be featured in a barley risotto; later in the week they may be in a fish mousse or a salad. When you stick your fork into one, be sure to growl: “This one’s for the Wisconsin tadpoles!” and proceed with extreme vengeance.
1806 Saint Clair Ave
St Paul, MN 55105