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Sardines, my guilty pleasure

July 3, 2014 - Jordan Travis
I have a bit of an odd confession to make: I love sardines.

It's a recent love affair and a taste that admittedly took a few attempts to acquire. But here it is. I have a can of them in my desk right now (King Oscar double-layered brisling sardines in extra virgin olive oil with jalapeno slices).

My co-workers may not appreciate the smell from my eating them at the paper, but I can tell you that a can of sardines has seen me through a few mid-day slumps. Of course they're good for you, being a source of the much-raved-about omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and good old protein. But they're also simply good. I've used them in sandwiches, on crackers, with cheese or just straight out of the can.

But how did a formerly strict vegetarian (and yes, I consider fish as meat) get to eating this stuff? The answer is easy: plain old curiosity. I'd tried them a few times as a teenager, usually throwing half the can away after I couldn't stand another bite of bony Beach Cliff sardines. I even made a few sandwiches (sardines on sharp cheddar with mustard greens and brown mustard on rye, now a favorite) but couldn't make it through. The seagulls enjoyed the remains of these early attempts.

Then one day it hit me: a can of Season sardines in tomato sauce. I'd eaten a few fish meals since my early attempts, including some with a flavor stronger than fast-food fish sandwich. These sardines were bought in the kosher food section and eaten with chopsticks at a roadside park. Delicious! The fish were oily but mild and the tomato sauce complemented, not masked, the fishiness that had put me off so many other kinds. And yes, I've come to love Beach Cliff sardines as well.

So maybe try a can! They're typically pretty cheap and come in various flavors. Just aim for sustainably caught fish. An independent certification is usually a good sign. While nothing beats some good locally caught fish, sardines will satisfy many a quick craving.

Also keep this in mind: I tend to avoid "Product of Thailand" fish, only because some Thai fishing boats use slave or trafficked labor and the problem has festered for years. Check out this recent report by The Guardian. It quotes a Human Rights Watch official, who calls the practice of trafficked labor "systematic" within the Thai fishing industry, and a human trafficker tells the paper, under anonymity, about how he gets "orders" for men directly from the boat owners. The mere thought makes me lose my appetite.



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