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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Face It, We're Just Gonna Have to Give Up Canned Tuna

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 10:51 AM

Just let it go. - FOODISTA.COM/FLICKR
  • foodista.com/Flickr
  • Just let it go.
Last week, we called attention to Lou Bendrick's stinging backhand to canned tuna -- that mercury-harboring, dolphin-slaughtering staple delis have been mashing with sweet green relish and mayo since the early 20th century. Bendrick suggests water-packed sardines as an alternative. Disgusto, we say. Sardines should be fresh, roasted and blanketed in oil-soaked bread-crumbs. Likewise, we'd rather switch food groups altogether than pick the bones from the squishy, stinky contents of a can of salmon. Bendrick's other solution to the health and environmental concerns canned tuna poses -- eat less of it, and when you do, stick to the good stuff -- is more palatable. She considers Wild Planet, Eco Fish, and Vital Choice -- companies with reliably sustainable fishing methods and a history of conducting independent tests for mercury and PCBs -- smarter options than the average aluminum-cased chicken of the sea.

On Sunday, the Chronicle ran its weekly Taster's Choice column. As luck would have it, the foodstuff of focus was olive oil-packed tuna. You''ll be happy to know the Trader Joe's entry (by a long, long, long, long shot the most modestly priced, at $1.99 a can) placed a respectable fourth, with several brands carrying tags nearly eight times as weighty.

Now, tuna stowed in water or insipid broth is truly barely edible. In her seminal tome Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan dubbed it "wholly tasteless." The oily sort, on the other hand, makes for quick, good pasta sauces, impromptu salads with chickpeas and lemon, and salade Niçoise sans fuss. Question: Do expensive, imported brands of oil-packed tuna suffer from the same ailments as Starkist and its water-logged ilk? We're guessing yes. We'd prefer not to turn into Mad Hatters on account of lunch. If we can stop doing hard drugs, smoking cigarettes, and drinking to excess with frequency, we can probably quit tuna cold turkey -- if we decide we really want to. We hear salami melts are pretty good.

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Andrew Simmons

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