The Sardine Experiment: Part One
I did not grow up eating fish. My dad doesn’t like it and so, aside from the occasional tuna salad sandwich, fish was never on our table. I didn’t even start to like it myself until I was about 16 years old. The first time I remember eating it and thinking, “Hmm, this is not so bad”, was at my friend Shannon’s house and it was some catfish that her dad had just caught and fried up in cornmeal and served with tartar sauce and hushpuppies and jalapeno-cheese bread and homemade banana ice cream for dessert. I need to get that ice cream recipe.
And… now I’ve digressed.
The thing is, though, is that recently I’ve been thinking a lot about sardines. This is not brand-new. A few times in the last couple of years, I have gotten a wild-sardine-hair up my you-know-what and tried, really tried, to give them a go. After all, they are rich in Omega-3s! They are an excellent source of protein! They are high in calcium! They are low in mercury! They are really cheap!
So, on several occasions now, I’ve gotten a can of sardines and a box of Saltines (hey, they rhyme!) and tried to go to town on that business because I hear it’s the classic and delicious combination. And every time, every G.D. time, I get one or two sardines in and
JUST. CAN’T. DO. IT.
Their little weird bodies get to me and the fishy smell and the oil and the shiny skin and the whole bones thing. It just freaks me out. So I give up and feed them to another animal or just throw them away. And then I feel bad for being wasteful. But then I forget about it, and the following year I decide I’m going to try again. And the cycle repeats, ad nauseum.
But not this time.
This time, I am determined to learn to enjoy sardines. So I went out and bought FIVE different brands to find one I like the best. Once the best brand is established, I will use that one to try out some recipes suggested by readers on the FaceBook page.
These are the brands I chose. I decided to start myself off easy and mostly bought ones that are skinless and boneless.
Ligo brand: These have the skin and bones within, I fear, since no where on the tomato-paste-sized-can does it say otherwise. I got the one packed in tomato and chili sauce, as opposed to the plain tomato sauce. This is a product of the Philippines and was recommended specifically by a reader as a brand to try.
Cost: $0.79 for 5.5 ounces.
Wild Planet brand: I think these, too, have skin and bones, but at least they are “meaty portions” and “sustainably caught along the California coast”. I got the ones that are packed in water. And I suppose it’s worth noting that the can is “certified BPA free”!
Cost: $2.69 for 4.375 ounces
Crown Prince brand: This is a relatively common brand. I got the skinless and boneless, packed in water. They are a product of Morocco and “wild caught” but I am pretty sure that all sardines are wild caught (with a giant net) so that’s not really saying much. However, they are “hand packed” and maybe that’s a big deal.
Cost: $2.99 for 4.37 ounces
Season brand: Also skinless and boneless, I hadn’t seen this brand before. But they are packed in 100% olive oil and have a new “Easy to Open Lid!”. I’ll let you know how that part turns out. Also a product of Morocco.
Cost: $2.99 for 4.375 ounces
Bar Harbor brand: Okay, yes, the package actually says “Wild Herring Fillets”, not sardines, but did you know that sardines and herring are in the same family, Clupeidae?! Taxonomy: Coming back to haunt ya! According to my internet research, herring and sardines are very similar and honestly, the package was just so enticing I had to try it. They’re “sustainably harvested from the clear cold waters of the Gulf of Maine” ferchrissakes! And “naturally wood smoked” and “seasoned with cracked pepper”! Sounds GOURMET if you ask me. BTW, smoked herring fillets are kippers and vice-versa.
Cost: $3.79 for 6.7 ounces
So there we have it. It is my expectation that through these trials, I will find a brand of sardines that is suitable to my palate and will therefore be able to enjoy these fruits of the sea and supply my body with much-needed Omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, and protein, and all the while not poison myself with mercury or contribute to the over-fishing of the oceans. Stay tuned for the results of the taste tests!