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sardine sandwich

First and foremost, thank you for clicking on today’s What to Eat For Lunch. I know that between my constant praise of anchovies and the wonders they possess, my incessant addition of kimchi to everything, not-necessarily-welcome alternative ways to get your tuna salad fix and stalwart defense of hard-boiled eggs you’ve probably had enough weird, stinky Omega 3’s, excess of umami and lunch-induced hallucinations. And run-on sentences.

But before you flip to the story on how Kim Jong-Il used to love a big, juicy imported Big Mac on his lunch break, let me tell you about a special sandwich. I keep this formula locked in the back of my mind, to be consumed in total seclusion, in an empty house, with at least two hours to spare before I have to see anyone. It involves a full can of sardines, copious amounts of whipped cream cheese and whole wheat bread. It is a sardine sandwich.

One day in my early single digits, I came across my mother eating one. As it was forbidden to so much as wrinkle my nose at a new food (and having already made eye contact with her), I knew I had only seconds before I was asked to taste it. Little fish tails stuck out of the back end of the bread.

“Try a bite,” she said, “it’s just like bagels and lox. Grandpa Ben used to make me this sandwich when I was little.” 

I loved stories about my great-grandfather, so I took a nibble. Lo and behold, it was very similar to bagels and lox. But while lox (sliced correctly) melts away when it hits your tongue, the sardine had more body and texture. It tasted like tender, more flavorful tuna fish brought to life by the tangy cream cheese — an early lesson on the balance between fat and acid. I absconded with half the sandwich. 

To my knowledge, there are only two truly great ways to eat a sardine. One is freshly caught in the Mediterranean, immediately grilled, sprinkled with salt and lemon juice and eaten with crusty bread and olive oil, and the other is nestled between two cream-cheese covered slices of wheat toast, old-school Jewish guy style. If you find another, please let me know.