Friday, May 7, 2010


I have been wanting to eat more fish, for the health of the baby. Baby brains are built entirely of fats, and DHA is the best of those fats for that development. DHA is almost exclusively found in fish. Problems? I'm scared of methylmercury, PCBs, and un-sustainable fishing of declining species. Other problems? I'm from a family of fishophobes, for whom trout and tuna fish is about the limit. (Well, Mom likes halibut. But still.)

Enter the heroic sardine. Sadly, America's last canneries just closed their doors, but they are still available fresh and as imports. They are sustainable, not at all threatened, live low on the food chain (they eat plankton), and low in methylmercury and PCBs. So I bought a couple tins when I found them on sale. Then I cowered for three weeks while morning sickness made trying fishy new things inadvisable. I recalled that Grandma Red used to like sardines: I saw her mashing them with heavy cream, minced green apple, and red onion, and eating them on crackers once. I declined to taste, and she concurred, "you probably wouldn't care for them." Fish and apples? I thought not, too.

I put out requests to two favorite food bloggers to help me find recipes. This morning I got my first reply from Drew at How to Cook Like Your Grandmother (minus the fish & apples, maybe.) He pointed me toward an excellent website which provided numerous exciting preparation options and recipes, and a lot of reassurance regarding methylmercury levels in fish. So encouraging! So delicious looking!

Since as of yesterday I am feeling less queasy, I thought, sure, I'll make some fish for lunch.

But there weren't a lot of recipes for tinned sardines. But then I remembered that Alton Brown made a big deal about the sardine/avocado sandwiches he enjoyed so much during his weight loss, and I thought, yes, even though those look kinda fucking disgusting, I am going to forge ahead and try the Sardicado.

First of all, it is an UGLY sandwich... shades of grays and browns and shredlets of green on top of olive-drabby avocado and brown toast. Yikes. I didn't dare taste the fish mixture until it was safely ensconced on a layer of smashed avocado on my whole wheat toast. And then... and then...

Yes, they're fishy. But also smokey. With the native oiliness of the fish cut by key lime juice (didn't have lemon), zest, and black pepper, it put Pat and I in mind of chicharrones de pescado, a favorite Peruvian treat for us (deep fried fish cubes, dipped in fresh key lime juice with hot chilies sliced in). The avocado multiplied the smokiness and softened the flavors, adding just that oomph of umami.

Yum. Yummm.

And I no longer fear the sardine.

So the punchline is, now I want to try them Grandma's way. And lots of ways. They are neither slimy nor as fishy as I feared, and they have a delicious depth of flavor.

If you've known all this for years, feel free to laugh at me.


iNk Photography said...

Oh, so tempted! I too recall my grandmother peeling back the lid from a tin of sardines. She'd offer and always, I'd balk...just too fishy of a fish. But this is tempting.

Do walnuts provide any of the same benefits? Flax seed?

iNk Photography said...

So... sardines don't = anchovies? Hmmm. I need a field trip to the grocery store, it seems.

Like the following sight...couldn't get enough of such pictures when we were growing our Nick.

medicinenet dot com and search for fetal development pictures.

So just how far along is this little bean now?

Ducks said...

If you're tempted, try one. Two sammiches cost approximately $2.50; not the worst gamble out there!

As far as I know, anchovies are a specific fish and sardines are one of several species... but I'm a newbie and don't know for sure that I know. :)

Walnuts and flaxseed provide lots of Omega-6s, which are also super necessary, but I don't think their DHA content is notable. Which is fine... if I understand this rightly, the baby will take the DHA it needs from MY body, but it's nice to replenish.

Tomorrow we are 12 or 13 weeks... I am really confused as to how to count. :) My books conflict.

Tuesday we have an appointment! Eee!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you found something! My response is forthcoming, but I have to buy sardines first.

Ducks said...

I'm excited to see what you turn up. I just got eager and ... well, it turns out I like them very well and will be VERY interested to find recipes for them!

Natalie said...

Kudos to you and your bravery. I don't think I could ever get myself to like sardines.