Canned sardine culture
I would rather eat a sardine from a can than a bowl of chocolate ice cream with melted fudge sauce.
No really…..I promise. My boyfriend and I eat canned sardines at least 3 times a week…of course I would rather eat them fresh , on a skewer like we do in Andalucia , but being practical, canned is a very good second choice.
It also helps that sardines are considered a super-food and in my case I find them very satisfying and filling and really do take the edge away when I am “hangry ”, hungry and obsessing about food like a rabid dog……when that happens I just open a can, drain some of the oil, squeeze some lemon juice on it , sprinkle some chilly flakes like these that I get from the Indian supermarkets and eat the sardines straight out of the can…..5 minutes later I am full and my hunger pangs are gone. If you cannot find the chili flakes then just buy chillies ( not too hot ones ) and blend them with a hand blender .
I have also been told to eat canned sardines whole, bones and all, because that calcium is easily absorbed and helps in bone formation for those of us who are concerned about bone density and loss and that is : any woman over the age of 35.
Here is why you should eat sardines:
- Promote Heart Health: Sardines are rich in numerous nutrients that have been found to support cardiovascular health. They are one of the most concentrated sources of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have been found to lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels; one serving (3.25 ounce can) of sardines actually contains over 50% of the daily value for these important nutrients. Sardines are an excellent source of vitamin B12, ranking as one of the World’s Healthiest Food most concentrated in this nutrient. Vitamin B12 promotes cardiovascular well-being since it is intricately tied to keeping levels of homocysteine in balance; homocysteine can damage artery walls, with elevated levels being a risk factor for atherosclerosis.
- Promote Bone Health: Sardines are not only a rich source of bone-building vitamin D, a nutrient not so readily available in the diet and one that is most often associated with fortified dairy products. Vitamin D plays an essential role in bone health since it helps to increase the absorption of calcium. Sardines are also a very good source of phosphorus, a mineral that is important to strengthening the bone matrix. Additionally, as high levels of homocysteine are related to osteoporosis, sardines’ vitamin B12 rounds out their repertoire of nutrients that support bone health.
- Promote Optimal Health: For many years, researchers have known that vitamin D, in the form of calcitriol, participates in the regulation of cell activity. Because cell cycles play such a key role in the development of cancer, optimal vitamin D intake may turn out to play an important role in the prevention of various types of cancer.
- Packed with Protein: Sardines are rich in protein, which provides us with amino acids. Our bodies use amino acids to create new proteins, which serve as the basis for most of the body’s cells and structures. Proteins form the basis of muscles and connective tissues, antibodies that keep our immune system strong, and transport proteins that deliver oxygen and nutrients throughout our bodies.
In the same way that I gave you my coffee research here , and my bread research here, I have obsessed for years over the perfect sardines, even bringing sardines from Spain to Paris in my suitcase because I could not find the perfect french canned sardine
In Spain we are lucky, we produce and eat a lot of sardines and they are always available everywhere. On restaurant menus they offer them grilled with a green salad, the perfect healthy meal , or anywhere in occidental Andalucia on the Mediterranean beaches from June to August ( months without R ) they cook them over an open wood fire and these are called espetos de sardinas, or sardine skewers…..fantastic. But unfortunately we live in the city so the canned variety will have to do. Cheap, available and delicious at around 1.60 euros a can I buy Cuca and Ortiz .
It took me a loooooong time to find the perfect sardine in Paris and when I say perfect I mean: plump, actually very very plump , and with a mild delicate taste. I find that french sardines , even the most expensive ones , taste too strong, salty and fishy….I even tried some superb – looking brands that they have at l’Epicerie Du Bon Marche ( the food halls at the Bon Marche department store) , but apart from them not being as good as the Spanish brands, I just refuse to pay 10 euros for a can of sardines .
I also tried the portuguese brands that most supermarkets carry and the results were the same as the french sardines: strong, dry, fishy. I will have to get my research curated by a real portuguese bon vivant and get some tips from them: there must be the perfect portuguese sardine that I am missing .
Finally my dear friend Sylvie Haymann introduced me to the perfect canned sardine in France from a brand called La Belle Iloise from Quiberon. They are reasonably priced too so now I don’t have to fill up my suitcase with cans from Spain.
And finally America : this was also difficult because there is no canned sardine culture here, actually: no canned seafood culture at all . In some bars in Spain they serve you canned seafood products as a delicacy and IN THE CAN! believe me that some of these cans are very expensive….some reach astronomical prices like $40 or $100 for certain cans….mussels, octopus, fish roe, clams, anchovies….we eat these with some picos ( breadsticks ) straight out of the can and on the bar counter. Some of the amazing brands like Herpac and Frinsa have their own shops where you can go and drool and load your suitcase for the trip home.
In fact the only sardines I eat in the States are Matiz Gallego , you buy them at Whole Foods and they cost around $4. You can also find the Ortiz brand in some gourmet delis but the prices are insane. So I stick to Matiz Gallego, they are Spanish , they are perfect and because they do sell out very often , I tend to buy a dozen cans at a time.
I saw that Matiz sells octopus and mussels too. La Tienda online sells a big variety of Spanish delicacies , including all the above mentioned cans , they deliver all over America …..so be adventures and go for it ! ….. I am going to make myself now a nice big sardine sandwich and some artisanal chocolate sardines from the Biscuiterie Du Marais .
Oh and PS , for a cultural note …thanks to my sister Victoria for reminding me of the Spanish celebration El Entierro De La Sardina or The “Burial of the Sardine” which is a Spanish ceremony celebrating the end of carnival and other festivities. The procession, led by singers, dancers and Chinese-style dragons is followed by the funeral procession itself. Local men dress as teaful ‘widows’ and walk with the deceased fish. But the sardine isn’t actually buried, he is cremated – and the burning ceremony is (unsurprisingly) accompanied by much revelry. As depicted in this Goya painting called El Entierro De La Sardina.