Sardine Therapy | A Simple Lunch

There are so many things I don’t know; I have to honor those I do know. Jean Vanier

During Easter luncheon this year, our host invited all at the table to tell a personal detail of which others would be surprised. The truth is I love the idea of such a party game, but I finally had to say hello to the part of me who freezes at improv.

I want to be that devil may care darling. But thanks to Sunday’s after-lunch entertainment and our church’s spanking new reverend who threw confetti at the congregation and (heaven help us) later at the choir during his first noon service; I threw down and peeled the onion.

Inside of me, no where to be found was that last minute, pull on your suspenders and get the lead out kind of gal. Though once I did escort a car full of friends on a midnight road trip to Opryland.

I hold dear the time it takes to plan and then consider my options. And there’s always a possibly that after 24 hours, I’ll rehash and rewrite the entire thing.

This whirl of a girl was never meant for impromptu shenanigans.

So when the personal detail question rounded to me, I grinned. Regarding my clueless expression, the host answered for me. And so it goes. Another lost freaking opportunity for speaking my mind. More evidence to support my diminished thyroid aka depressed throat chakra.

The very next day as I cracked open a tin of sardines for lunch, it hit me. Sardine-eating has been a closeted activity since my father introduced it to me and my brother when we were still impressionable. It’s been a quiet habit, in fact, I generally partake when no one is around. After the pent up fish odor is released, I love them so.

If memory serves, my shared love affair began outdoors on a summer evening, possibly a picnic table was involved. A shiny tin can of sardines, a small glass jar of yellow mustard and then a celebratory rite of the most peculiar order. It fit my need for both oddity and then structure, explaining my improv dilemma.

My jovial father who also taught us to peel an apple in one elegant strip made the proper introduction by demonstrating that precision was employed in opening le can. The thing is or was, sardine tins had a precious key, invented in 1889, soldered to the bottom of the can. The ritual felt like a mystic secret of adulthood and if I partook, i was in like Flynn.

He tenderly showed how the key could fit into the slot at one edge of the tin top and gingerly be rolled back. Big eyefuls as the sacred mystery door unfurled. Take that and a swig of cold Budweiser. Next up, choose the top saltine from its sleeve and spread the mustard. Top with silver lines of pilchard. Here, try it – solid, portable and delicious.

When discussing my love for sardines with my daughter Mary Ann she said, “Nah.” She felt that there was no available opportunities for experiencing the canned sardine today. “No one is just passing them out,” she said.

Sigh. I take that to heart. Certainly it was my parental responsibility to offer my girls their easy value, but I did not. I was too interested in the thank you note.

Which brings me to my new found love of improv. I am out of the dark pantry. Eat sardines, I’ll say. A plus for you, I’ll advise, after all, they are at the bottom of the aquatic food chain and eat only plankton avoiding the metal heavy diets of all other fish.

Sardines are caught wild. They are not farmed. They add good stuff to your profile: Vitamin D, B-12, Omega-3, calcium, selenium and phosphorus.

Confirm it for yourself. An venture capitalist/zillionaire, in his fifth decade, claims online that he devours a tin of sardines for breakfast every morning. “Superfood,” he says!

Once when my end of the world friend described her stockpile, I inquired – “Any Sardines?” She sniffed and turned her head. How very sad, I judged. Sardines are on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch List as “best choice.”

By way of DNA testing, I recently discovered that 10 percent of me is from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, a place where sardines once swam in abundance. Big surprise and good material for my next improv.

A Simple Lunch

Maybe this oversharing, but I enjoy eating lunch with myself. Certainly I’ve had to adjust to that the solitude, but I would never skip it because it’s too important for mental and the physical stability.

There is nothing speedier to prepare than a salad, definitely quicker than a to-go order. Freshness is key and with year-round CSAs, I always have something to chop and swirl with my favorite vinaigrette.

My pantry is loaded with various tins and jars of sardines. I do prefer the Portuguese variety, but enjoy experimentation.

Generally, I will chop parsley from the garden, halve cherry tomatoes, slice some celery and roast a bell pepper to dice. All ingredients can be tossed with some lettuce, chopped sardines and this wonderful complimentary vinaigrette.

Single Salad Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
kosher salt, a pinch
pepper, a turn
1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey

Add all ingredients to a jar. and shake until blended. Dressing will keep at least 3 days.