I like most everything I’ve eaten at Aripo’s Arepas, especially the freshly made arepas and the generous portion of chicken salad (a very good deal at a little under 7 bucks).

One thing I’ve never eaten at Aripo’s is the shark empanada, though it’s still on the menu, and I’ve heard it’s very good.

A Venezuelan guy named Carlos is in the local beverage business, and I’ve seen him at a number of food events. Every time we meet up, we talk about his love of “cazon,” shark empanadas that he enjoyed when young in his Venezuelan homeland. Carlos’ eyes actually started misting up as he described family trips to the beach when they’d stop and have little baked dough pockets of shark meat, specifically baby shark meat.

I would not want to deny Carlos the pleasure of eating whatever he wants, but for me, it’s hard to imagine eating baby shark meat.

According to some organizations, sharks are at risk of extinction. Due to this environmental threat, New York has just put into effect a ban on the trading of shark fins. Shark fins are also banned in California, though not in Mexico’s Baja California, where I saw sharks harvested primarily for their fins (in the picture above, you can see how the fin has been removed for sale, I was told, to Asian buyers – sometimes the rest of the fish is discarded). Shark fin soup is prized among some Asian and other populations for both traditional and health reasons.

So although I’m open to eating species that some might be considered inedible for aesthetic reasons, I draw the line when it comes to eating endangered species. And sometimes creatures are, indeed, put on the “don’t eat” list for aesthetic reasons, so it’s not like I put 100% faith in prohibitions against eating anything. But for me, just knowing I might be eating the last remaining members of a species puts me off my feed – and there’s so much other good stuff to eat at Aripo’s that it’s easy to avoid incurring a karmic debt for eating something that might be equally delicious but not in danger of extinction.

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...

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