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On The Light Side

August 1, 1988

SAUSALITO, Calif. (AP) _ After being plagued for years by the annoying buzz of the lusty humming toadfish, hundreds of houseboat residents here decided to turn the other gill, er, cheek.

The humming toadfish season usually marks a time when sleepy houseboat dwellers put pillows over their heads to escape the irritating nighttime sound of thousands of sex-starved male fish.

But this year, houseboaters threw the Sausalito Humming Toadfish Festival instead.

″They’re just out looking for a mate, just like everybody else in Sausalito,″ said John McCosker, the Steinhart Aquarium ichthyologist and oceanographer who identified the humming toadfish as the cause of the mysterious buzz in 1985.

In its courtship ritual, the fish sidles up to a concrete structure - a cave or houseboat will do - and blows air through its bladder. The noise apparently drives female toadfish crazy with desire. The hum usually begins in June and stops when the mating season ends in August.

About 5,000 people turned out for Sunday’s fish festival in which McCosker was crowned king of the festivities.

″It was overwhelming,″ McCosker said. ″Who would have thought as an ichthyologist I would have risen to such heights, or, in Sausalito, such depths.″

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JUDA, Wis. (AP) - America’s palate apparently is honed to where the buffalo roam, says Duane Helland, who specializes in bison cuisine.

Helland, who owns and operates Helland’s Food and Locker Service with his wife, Sue, decided to expand his menu to include the great American bison in reaction to ″a changing society,″ he said.

″People want to eat meat that’s low in calories, fat and cholesterol and high in protein,″ said Helland, who has filled orders for almost 5,000 pounds of buffalo meat.

The average serving of beef contains 24 percent protein and 28 percent fat. Buffalo has 35 percent protein and 3 percent fat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

There is about half the amount of cholesterol in a buffalo roast than in a similar cut of beef, said Mary Duvall, executive director of the National Buffalo Association, in Fort Pierre, S.D.

″If it’s not overcooked, it’s a little sweeter than beef. There’s no wild flavor,″ Helland said. ″It’s real smooth. Texture of the meat is very silky.″

There’s a catch, though. ″It’s twice the price of beef,″ Helland said.

In 1850, about 20 million buffalo thundered on the western plains. In the late 1800s, hunters slaughtered millions of bison until their numbers dwindled. By 1889, only 551 bison were found alive in the United States.

Today, as many as 100,000 exist, mostly in the hands of private individuals, Duvall said.

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