A culinary counterculture group that calls itself the Sardinistas is leading an effort to get sardines back on America’s grocery list.
As reported by Jane Black in the Washington Post, the sardine enthusiasts include a filmmaker, Mark Shelley, plus a veteran commercial fisherman, an environmentalist, a marine biologist, and a semi-retired entrepreneur.
The Sardinistas have been meeting for several years, discussing and dining on sardines and wine. Now they’re plotting to produce canned sardines and prepared foods. Their message: These are not your grandfather’s sardines.
The sardine population had seriously declined by the mid-1950s due to overfishing and other less understood factors. But the oily little fish has made a major comeback. Sardines are now plentiful and are endorsed as an eco-friendly catch by environmentalists, who praise California’s sustainably managed fishery.
Nutritionists approve of sardines for their high level of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Eating smaller fish has additional health benefits. Because sardines eat mostly plants, they do not accumulate dangerous levels of mercury or PCBs the way larger carnivorous fish do.
Chefs at fine dining restaurants have begun to incorporate fresh sardines into their culinary creations. They really are a tasty, full-flavored fish, the chefs agree.
But the question remains, will the average Joe and Jane be willing to make sardines a part of their acceptable set of meal choices? How do you feel about eating oily, somewhat smelly little fish that still look like fish? How would your children react to seeing them on their plates? Are you adventurous enough to try them?
Most Americans have never even tasted sardines, and many have a preconceived negative impression of them.
That’s the marketing hurdle that has the Sardinistas swimming against the current. We’ll keep our periscope trained on this emerging trend.
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