Tag Archives: Leftovers

Good Fishy Fish (in a can)

In a recent post I’ve realized that I came down rather hard on sardines. Actually, sardines are quite delicious. They are not just fish in a can.

 

So listen, I never do this, but you’ll need:

  1. A largish or smallish onion (red or yellow or white). It should remind you of a fist cupped doggedly in the hand of a steady and determined foe. Shallots will work too, in a pinch, but they should be gob-sized. Gobs of shallots, then, would be wise.
  2. Your tolerance level of red Thai chilli peppers. I recommend a smattering. A smattering is good. Yes.
  3. One can of sardines in tomato sauce. Note the brand for later. There are lots, so many out there to choose from, so please do also keep that in mind. Too many really. A ridiculous amount.
  4. Leftover rice, a good lunch portion of it (i.e. enough to fit comfortably in the a child’s sun hat or mid-size catcher’s mitt).
  5. Like, some oil (read: cooking). Anything else is between you and your god. Between you and infinity.
  6. Salt and pepper (but not really, you can skip this if you want).

Then:

STEP 1: Prime stovetop to medium heat. Spill a bit of oil into to a shallow pot or pan. If necessary, deploy gumption. Sauté the onions until translucent. Add red Thai chillies, sliced dramatically. Enhance with salt and pepper (or not).

STEP 2: Empty can of sardines in tomato sauce into pan. Reduce heat. Simmer till onion and sardine and sauce enter into an exquisite union wherein the parts do and do not make up the whole. A dance, really, and a rather intricate one at that, something at the level of a tango or Polonaise. You’ll know it when you see it, probably. You’ll feel it before you know it. Trust.

STEP 3: Drape over rice and make sure to tuck it in at the corners before it’s too late. Remember to use leftover rice so that there is that feeling of extra accomplishment.

 

There. That’s it. You’re done! Now try it and see. Hope you like it.

Don’t like it? That’s fine because it wasn’t like I was really asking, was it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Ceremony, Food

Fish in a Can

I met my childhood best friend in the gymnasium during lunch, just after our second grade began.

During lunch, the gymnasium doubled as the lunchroom, filled with rows of collapsible picnic tables rolled in from the school storage shed, the basketball nets above folded up so as not to provide the children with yet another unwanted distraction.

I remember. No one would sit with me because of my “Chinese lunches.” According to the other children, the food my mom packed for me (leftovers from dinner and the now fashionable, but back then the as-yet-reviled bánh mì sandwiches purchased from the local Vietnamese market) – that food was so smelly and gross and simply unfit for human consumption. So go ahead and let the “Chinese” girl eat it. This went on for quite some time; longer than it should and much, much longer than seemed possible.

Then one day someone did sit next to me. A redheaded girl whose preoccupied mom began packing her sardines for lunch. I remember the heft of the can, the way the girl plunked it down at the table. No one would sit with her either, at least, not after she opened up that can of fish. She was more confused than sad about this, but then maybe her confusion just masked her sadness as it did for me.

It took a while, but we got to talking, then comparing lunches. It was a sobering exercise. Because, whatever else I had (old rice, soggy noodles, weird veggies with marinated eggs), she had fish heads. Whatever else she was, I was still the Asian girl in a mostly white school.

We were a match.

I never shared my lunch, and the girl, my eventual friend, never asked. She never ate her sardines, though she eagerly opened them every day, right after plunking that heavy tin on the table.

We smashed up the fish with her fingers, rendering them into a viscous fish-paste that fascinated (so much destruction in that particular transformation). We took the heads and spines from the sardines and threw them at boys, then girls, then whoever. We were seldom caught (not many snitches in that lunchroom and who wouldn’t appreciate some distraction?).  I was always a little proud we started with the boys, targeting them not out of malice but out of a vague sense of obligation. Anyway, it was something my friend and I never questioned.

Her mother remained preoccupied, packing her can after can of tomato-submerged fish, thinking they made a good lunch. This went on for years.

***

Bánh mì is now fashionable, so much so that non-native speakers gladly twist up their tongues trying (and failing, failing, failing) for an “authentic” pronunciation of the word, the dish. What they settle for (“Bah, bah”, “me-me-me,”) is, fortunately, often more amusing than anything else. More amusing, possibly, that it should be.

Sardines, however, remain what they are.

Still just fish in a can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Childhood, Food, Friendship, Race, Relationships, School, THE PAST