Apr 17, 2008

On Canned Sardines and Nostalgia

While shopping with my wife today, I came across a delicacy I have not sampled in quite a few years: canned sardines. I especially like the variety that is smothered in mustard sauce, which is a taste I acquired at my grandparents' house.

My grandmother, ever sensible, never much cared for sardines, though my grandfather used to take them in his lunch at his job as a tool-and-die maker outside of Detroit. Though I was somewhat picky as a young eater, I thoroughly enjoyed opening tins of sardines, using Ritz crackers to mop up the liquefied mustard.

One of the features of sardines that I always liked are the crunchy bones of the cooked fish, which - unlike the skeletons of larger aquatic creatures - can be consumed whole. I was surprised when I became older and learned that the bones of most types of fish are anything but edible.

I liked to take tins of sardines in the backyard of my grandparents' house and pretend they were camping rations. A sheet stretched across two clotheslines served as my tent, and my grandparents' cats would saunter out in search of the fishy aroma that wafted across the half-acre property.

On a recent trip to visit my grandparents, who are now in their early nineties, I had to open the cupboard next to the sink and see if there were still cans of sardines there. Sure enough, there were a half-dozen cans of both mustard and oil sardines, and they were the brand I learned to love as a child: Bulldog Sardines. I grabbed a fork and a can and took a walk in the backyard, which seemed much smaller than when I was a child.

But the sardines tasted as delicious as ever.


Anonymous said...

YUCK! Nasty, nasty, NASTY!

Mad Jack said...

Sardines... Good, good, good.

Smoked oysters with the good old Club crackers are excellent!

And, better and better, you take a slice of that cocktail rye bread, put a little slice of onion on it, a thin slice of Limburger cheese and just a little dab of ketchup on top.

microdot said...

mad jack, you are a true gourmand!
I love sardines. I have a friend whose home I used to visit and he showed me his fathers collection of sardines. He claimed that they had to age and the tins had to be turned from time to time....

In the bizarre world of chic cuisine, the nostalgia for sardines has inspired chefs to create entrees based on serving them in the open can. That's right, you can go into an expensive Parisian Restaraunt and get an open can of sardines on a fancy plate.

Sergej said...

Well, Proust got tea and madeleine cakes for his melancholic moments... I confess I prefere your sardines with mustard. Don't know why, in spite of being canned, they seem more "open space": they make me thinking of (far!) sunny rural afternoons... sure, your "camping-souvenir" has a part in this :))

Jake said...

packt like sardines in a crushd tin box