When I was growing up, a sleeve of saltines and a can or two of sardines or Vienna sausage was a common lunch for working people. I’ve had those combinations many a time, and I still have sardines and saltines now and then. (Not so much Vienna sausage.) Sardines are a great source of calcium. After 9-11, when government offices in Washington all had to plan for sheltering in place, each office was required to maintain a store of food for the many days we’d be shut in together. I think they were talking a couple of weeks in place. Most people brought in cookies and granola bars, which they ate almost immediately. I stocked up on sardines and Vienna sausage, secure in the knowledge that no one else would eat my stash.*
Most people don’t seem to like sardines. Admittedly, the ones I usually eat — the really inexpensive ones — do have a strong flavor, and I can see why people would rather eat peanut butter and jelly, chicken salad, or dirt.
Well, it’s a big world out there. Did you know that there are gourmet restaurants that serve only canned seafood? The center of canned seafood seems to be Can the Can in Lisbon, where
We elevate tinned seafood to the level of exclusive gastronomic products, at the same time as innovating in our recipes, joining fresh ingredients and placing a premium on quality of preparation and presentation.
The presentation seems to involve good bread and things like fancy pickles, radishes, and sauce gribiche.
Skeptical? Well, canned seafood in restaurants is now a thing in the United States, as at Saltie Girl in Boston, according to Food and Wine, and Hayden in Los Angeles, Ultreia in Denver, and Correda in Boulder.
Still skeptical? I was, until Liza and Michael gave me a goodies basket which included, among many other gourmet products, a can of sardines. I can’t say I was as enthusiastic as I might have been, but (a) it would have been ungracious not to have tried them, and (b) I was hungry.
I went with a traditional presentation.
The sardines were a revelation. The flavor was lemony and buttery, with a mild seafood flavor. The sardines were, in fact, better than fresh sardines, which are pretty darn good. I am now a convert.
Those of you with sharp eyes can see that these sardines cost less than 10 times the price of my former sardines of choice. Also, sardines are famous for their health benefits. Sardines essentially are a combination of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, calcium (as I mentioned), and Vitamin B12 packed inside a silvery exterior. Sardines lower cholesterol, prevent blood clotting, and will help your kids’ with their math homework.
You can see a list of US restaurants that serve canned seafood here, and, of course, you can find some in your local gourmet market — which is probably a better idea for a start. I plan to get some when I go to the grocery this afternoon. You should pick up a can, too.
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*Noting that more than 50 of us were supposed to stay in a conference room served by a 50 gallon plastic bucket for, uh, waste, I added a gallon of Maker’s Mark and a butcher knife to my stores and planned to shelter in the mens’ room with plenty of reading material. Dear didn’t raise no fools.