Unpacking Packed Sardines


Fresh sardines are easier to love, so if canned sardines are to enjoy the revival I think they deserve, they need to be full of distinctive, rich flavor—but not too fishy. Sardines packed in water give the purest taste and are the best choice for salads and in recipes, especially because the oil most packers use is terrible.

Granadaisa, from Morocco and available at www.barneygreengrass.com, is an exception, because even bad olive oil in Morocco is usually pretty good. And these sardines are lush (as all oil-packed fish should be), meaty, and authoritative—a way to convert tuna-lovers.

Season (www.seasonproducts.com) packs fat, smooth, superior sardines free of the chalky texture of many canned sardines.

Beach Cliff sardines (www.beachcliff.info), from Prospect Harbor, Maine, up the coast from its more famous cousin Port Clyde, are actually small herring, the East Coast version of sardines, and wider and meatier (if a bit less finely flavored) than many European and Mediterranean sardines.

Bela-Olhão, from Portugal (www.mybela.com), only come smoked, which I generally avoid (you taste the smoke, not the fish), and in sauces, which I also find generally extraneous attempts to cut the richness with tomato (which Bela-Olhão offers) or mustard or chiles. I include them here because they’re well distributed in gourmet shops, packed in good-quality olive oil, and sold in cheery tins besides. They also make an easy and satisfying lunch at the (preferably well-ventilated) office.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.
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