Friday, May 16, 2008

Praising sardines

Aside from pollution, the oceans would be in quite a healthy state if consumers were less reluctant to eat fish near the middle or bottom of the food chain, such as herring, sardines, and mackerel. We would be healthier, too, since these oily fish are rich in omega-3, the fatty acid in which the Western diet is markedly deficient. Instead, we clamor to eat top-of-the-food-chain fish such as cod and bluefin tuna, many of whose stocks have collapsed; they will soon disappear from the seas altogether unless demand drops. So far, as with meat, the opposite is happening. (New Yorker article).
The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch says sardine populations are "healthy and abundant" and one of the "best" fish for the conscientious seafood eater.
I've been eating canned sardines frequently recently and find them to be a satisfying snack or meal. Naturally, they can smell strongly of sardines, which is an acquired scent--one that my colleagues find disgusting, I learned. Smoked and flavored--cayenne, for instance--they taste great and are rich in protein and those essential Omega-3s. They travel well, and from a design perspective, sardine cans are wonderful little objects, compact and convenient, and incredibly durable:

I can't speak to the (probably deleterious) environmental consequences of eating from cans, but they're recyclable at the very least. The best way to eat the diminutive fish is, like almost everything, fresh and unprocessed. Unfortunately, the last time I went to the fish store they weren't available for sale, so cans it is for now. 
For another perspective, Corby Kummer writes about canned sardines here, and sardines generally here. And here's the surprisingly brief Wikipedia page on sardines.