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Pilchards! (also known as sardines)

Sardine salad sandwich

I’m trying to remember the train of thought that led me to think of pilchards. I think it was because I’ve been short on fiction lately, and I wondered whether it might be time to re-read Winston Graham’s Poldark novels. That would have caused me to think about Cornwall, and that might have caused me to wonder whether pilchards are as important today to the Cornish economy as they were to the Cornish people in the Poldark novels, set in the 18th Century. And then that made me wonder: What are pilchards? I do recall that I then went to Wikipedia and looked up “pilchard.”

I was surprised to learn that pilchards are sardines. Or maybe that small pilchards are called sardines and larger pilchards are called pilchards. Then I wondered if there is a sardine industry in Cornwall today. I didn’t find an answer to that, but I did come across references saying that the best canned sardines come from Norway, from a company called King Oscar. Then I looked on Amazon, and lo!, several varieties of King Oscar sardines are available from Amazon.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to learn to like sardines. As a 99-percent vegetarian, I’m squeamish about anything that isn’t a plant, and the sight of sardines in a can is a sight unlike anything that grows in a garden. But as I looked at the varieties of sardines sold by King Oscar, I saw that one variety is filet of sardines, skinless and boneless, packed in olive oil. Hmmm. Now we’re starting to sound more like canned tuna, which I love.

I ordered a sixpack of King Oscar sardines from Amazon and was shocked to find that they had accidentally sent me a twelve-pack. I’d better like them!

In fact I think I do. They’re almost as mild as tuna. My first experiment with my twelve cans of sardines was sardine salad. I used celery, onion, lime juice, and fresh herbs — basil, parsley, and dill. It was good!

Sardines are probably one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, highly compatible with a Mediterranean diet. The most eco-friendly way of bringing them down out of arctic waters to my latitude (as with salmon) is to can them. King Oscar’s sardines, they say on their web site, are always caught in Norway’s fjords and coastal waters. They’re processed elsewhere, though (Poland and Morocco?), because, I assume, labor costs are much higher in Norway. I believe all sardines are salt cured and smoked. King Oscar promises that they use real wood smoke and not smoke flavors.

I have two experiments in mind for the next time I open a can of sardines. I think they’d do well in a pasta dish. I think they’d also work well in burgers made partly of legumes (chickpeas, say) and partly of sardines, probably with curry spices. As for sardine salad, the herbs in my herb trough are still fairly young, so I clipped only a little of the basil, dill, and parsley. Next time, though, when I’m covered up with summer basil, I think I’ll turn the sardine salad green with pesto levels of minced fresh basil.

P.S. It happened that I had an avocado that needed to be eaten today. Avocado is a bit too mild to eat with sardines, though. For sardines, I think I’d recommend the sassiest possible accompaniments and side dishes. Pickles for sure, including dill pickles. Think curry, cumin, garlic toast, oodles of herbs … things like that.

One Comment

  1. Henry Sandigo wrote:

    I’ll have to try them, since I too love canned Tuna or fresh



    Wednesday, May 24, 2023 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

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