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Sardines on my plate – Manila Bulletin


MEDIUM RARE

Jullie Y. Daza

An archipelago of 7,000-plus islands experiencing a shortage in salt and seafood? Including galunggong, the poor man’s fish? Let them eat pampano!

Maybe we should eat sardines instead. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources denies reports of a sardines shortage. If so, can they explain why tamban, the name of the fish in the vernacular, costs between ₱280 and ₱350 a kilo? That’s approaching the price of beef which Filipinos consider the rich man’s food, as in steak.

Nonetheless, BFAR expects a 200 percent increase in tamban catch. In Concepcion, a town in Iloilo, a flood of tamban landed on the shore some days ago, to the utter delight of townsfolk. Was the miracle of the fishes part of the 200 percent harvest? Well and good, then, we have less to worry about recurrent shortages in garlic and white onions. The good news is that in Itbayat, Batanes, growers are groaning under the weight of 25 metric tons of garlic. Happily, they have a buyer who’s paying ₱120 or less for every kilo.

Does your cook need garlic for your sardines? What little I know, sardines are packed in tomato sauce but can stand a little coloring and flavoring. How about adding leafy vegetables? Tomorrow I’ll experiment with sardinas con ampalaya. My friend DJ can live on saucy sardines poured on her rice, adding several drops of Knorr for relish. I would go as far as dumping tomato sauce-infused sardines on a plate of spaghetti noodles served warm.

Sardines that come in bottles swim in olive oil, sometimes with pickles and spices, what they call Spanish-style sardines. As a versatile staple, a source of iron, they’re convenient for breakfast and merienda.
What’s hard to swallow is that sardines as “de lata” are no longer cheap for the masses. An oval-shaped can contains a few fishes, but at ₱56 (last month’s price) that’s 10 percent of the daily minimum wage. Plus, are they enough to feed a family of six?

In olden times when life was simpler, sardines connoted a can tightly packed to the brim and sides, so much so that sardines became the metaphor for overcrowding, as in “packed like sardines” in a car or room. Today there’s room for the imagination.

 

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