Sardines and Beets, Seriously

When Nicole and I met back in the late summer of 1999, one of the first thing we bonded on was our strange eating habits. We both worked in the same office, and would take note of the food the other would eat for lunch. For me, that was a mashup of whatever the local Star Market (this was in Boston) salad bar was offering — usually some mixture of mushrooms, baby corn, tofu, rice, and beets. Nicole’s lunch would often look kind of the same.  The mush wasn’t appetizing to anyone but us.

Our eating habits are still pretty similar, and pretty monotonish.  But we have added some choice ingredients to our repertoire over the years, and I’m glad to see Grist acknowledge that our habits are delicious, healthy, and not insane.

For me, the number-one addition to mealtimes has been sardines.  They’re fantastic — delicious, healthy, and much softer on the planet than over-trawled big fish.  Also, beets.  Tom Philpott makes it clear I’m not alone:

Beets, for example, are one of our most glorious vegetables, but their reputation has been ruined by deplorable canned versions that prevailed in the ’70s. Why don’t Americans revere cabbage? I can’t imagine a better way to consume something fresh and crunchy in the winter than a red-cabbage salad, dressed simply with lemon juice and olive oil. Canned sardines? People tend to recoil from this nutrient-dense, abundant, and, yes, delicious fish. I used to despise them, too; now I can’t remember why. (Check out this recipe I conjured up for pasta with sardines a few years back.) And prunes (delicately called in the article “dried plums”)? Fantastic — and unjustly scorned. In an ideal world, this sort of list would be getting hung up in school-cafeteria kitchens across the land, where skilled cooks would debate about how best to teach children to love them. In our own fallen world, school-cafeteria kitchens barely exist (they been replaced by reheating centers for churning out Tyson chicken nuggets), and skilled cooks have long since been sent packing.

Seriously, get thee some sardines. You won’t regret it.



  1. Beets are wonderful. I loved them as a toddler, despised them as a youth and now, in my advancing years, I’m back to loving them. I boil them and eat them like apples with a little salt. You gotta go where the dream takes you.

    I bonded with my dad over sardines. Seemed like an Italian thing, although I can’t confirm. You gotta go where the dream takes you.

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