I know I’m not the only person frustrated by the breathless announcements of nutrition journalism and by the studies behind it, which are so often contradictory and can always be manipulated to show just about anything (as discussed in last week’s thread about corn syrup). I'd rather forget about it all in favor of Michael Pollan's elegant and manageable, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." But now that I’m pregnant, I find myself drawn again to this report and that study or those recommendations.
Fish interests me most, probably since the information about it is so confusing: it’s vital to human well-being/no, it’s full of mercury and other toxins. In fish’s plus column, one of the omega-3 fatty acids that makes its way up the food chain from seaweed to swimmers, DHA, is said to be crucial for baby’s brain and retina development, especially in the third trimester. (Hey fathead, did you know that the human brain is 60% fat?)
Because wild fish is so expensive, I didn’t eat a lot of fish before; it was a special treat. Now, though, in addition to taking a DHA supplement with my prenatal vitamin I’ve started seeking out the highest-reward, lowest-risk, best-value fish I can find, and you can guess where that leads me: sardines.
Sardines are high in DHA and calcium, low in mercury, never farmed (I think), and conveniently packed in inexpensive tins. Though I am happy to eat fresh sardines, I am ashamed to admit that canned sardines were one of my food phobias until I forced myself to start eating them last month. What can I say? They just freaked me out. A pregnant friend told me to try them on Triscuits with mustard, the way they’re served at the bar at Prune; I tried to make them into something like tuna salad, so I would be less aware of their animal-ness. Though these solutions are both okay, I don’t really get excited about eating them, and they leaving me feeling rather…oily.
Last summer in The Atlantic, Corby Kummer recommended several premium brands, which I suppose I should try. In the meantime (and in case those turn out to be super expensive), I need your help: please tell me how you like to eat sardines. Share your great ideas and expand lunchtime possibilities for me and pregnant women everywhere!
About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.
Robin’s Sad Sardine Salad
- 1 3.75-ounce can sardines packed in olive oil
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- Triscuits or other substantial crackers (I like Woven Wheats, the Triscuit imposter sold by Whole Foods)
Drain the sardines. Cut them up into small flakes, like tuna salad. I know the backbones you may find look creepy, but don’t remove them: they are edible, high in calcium, and unnoticeable if you chop the fish well enough.
Stir in the mustard and mayonnaise, adding more or less according to taste. Season with freshly ground pepper and eat with crackers.