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Everything I Learned By Gutting My Own Sardines

America: land of the free and home of the red meat. My parents grew up on an island in the Caribbean and passed their love of seafood down to me, a love often misunderstood by my young peers. Rolling into the cafeteria with a tuna fish sandwich or sardine pâté was a recipe for scrunched noses and table abandonment. Luckily, I, much like Janice from accounting, didn’t give a fuck and kept on loving my smelly lunches.

Cut to adulthood. As it turns out, a lot of people like fish so much that they’ll eat it raw and pay top dollar for it too. I could finally relax and enjoy my canned sardines in peace…well, almost. College J. quickly realized that mommy wasn’t gonna be around to expertly gut and debone their fish anymore.

Gross.

Yup, There’s Still Guts In There

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Most people who eat canned sardines just plop the suckers on some crackers or pizza as is because the cooking/steaming process at most canneries softens the bones to the point where they’re edible. I, naturally, am one of the few people who has choked on sardine spine and I’m not at all down for a repeat performance.

I’ve Choked On Sardine Spine

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Okay, yes, they already gut sardines at most canneries, but they don’t always do such a great job. Every time I slice open one of these bad boys, there’s at least a little bit of intestine left, but there can also be surprising things like eggs or a somewhat digested smaller fish. The bitterness of sardine intestines is enjoyable to some, but I’m not really interested in eating fish poop.

It’s Disgusting And Relaxing, Simultaneously

I’ve only caught a fish once in my life, but it was with my bare hands, so that’s pretty badass for a 4-year-old. I immediately let it go because 1) Ewwwwww and 2) fish are really slippery when they’re alive. This is the only time in my life where I’ve been remotely close to actually killing something for my consumption, despite a considerable amount of my family members knowing how to butcher everything from chickens to goats.

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So, I’m not gonna lie, the first time I laterally sliced open the tail-end of a sardine to reveal a plethora of fish eggs, I gagged throughout the whole process. I got through it because there’s something about gutting a fish that melts away the modern luxuries of my apartment. There’s an unusually rustic appeal to getting fish scales on a manicure that I can’t find while preparing other foods.

I don’t think I’ll ever fully get used to it, and I often feel a momentary spur to give up meat all together as I dissect these once living creatures. But then, I make a pâté and spread it on some water crackers.

And that shit is delicious.

By J. Fergus

J. is an overbearing pizza snob who loves putting as much sugar as possible in cupcakes and coffee. They eagerly awaits diabetes.

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