A Jewish Love Letter To Canned Fish

From solid white tuna to sardines, my love for you knows no bounds.

Dear Solid White Tuna In Water,

You were my first, my longest. We grew up together: you, me, and a few squirts of mayo. I’m so sorry I was embarrassed to sit with you in the school cafeteria all those years. I thought without you, I could be cool, but the truth is you were more popular than I was the entire time. And forget the haters; I think you smell amazing.

I love you mixed with mayo and maybe vinegar and something crunchy and sweet, between two slices of wheat bread. Or with melted cheddar between sourdough. I love you mashed with a fork over seasoned rice or mixed with sriracha beside leftover veggies.

Whenever we’re together, I am back at a deli counter. It’s you, me, some greasy French fries, and maybe a Dr. Brown’s.

As far as I venture, I will never be over you, Solid White Tuna In Water.

Keep swimming,



Dear Anchovy Fillets,

You are intense, and with you so am I. You’re the most versatile tinned fish I know (don’t tell Tuna). When I peel back your lid like a quilt, I see 12 of you sleeping peacefully in your bed of oil. Who would suspect the salty, umami unity you bring to any party? I could watch you dissolve anywhere — in tomato sauce, a stir fry, salad dressing — and forget yourself for the good of the meal.

And even though I don’t let people see us when we’re alone, I want you in front of the fridge late at night, with no other ingredients, just one fillet of salty goodness.

Wading in the water,



Dear Sardines Packed In Oil,

They don’t want us to be together. They say we’re from different walks of life. That you’re rustic and only good in emergencies, but I know differently. I know when you’re all dolled up, you glisten.

Break you into some pasta, and you are a gentle memory of flesh and fish. Fry you in hot oil and you sizzle. Last week I even stirred you into matzah brie, a little secret between just us.

But take away the glitz and the glam. Take away the cheese and crackers, the fresh herbs, and there you remain, naked. And I still love you like that, Sardines Packed In Oil, not in spite of your fishiness and your weird crunchy spine, but because of those features.

Flopping on the deck,



Dear Smoked Salmon,

Don’t try to distance yourself from this gang of tinned fish. I know you. You may have upgraded your home from aluminum to clear plastic, but you’re preserved fish nonetheless.

And yet, whenever I’m with you I fall for your suave, neatly trimmed ways. Your status and lifestyle of comfort hypnotize me. Like they would any great Jewish partner, my parents love you and my friends adore you. Everyone expected me to fall for you. How could I not?

People think it’s the avocado toasts, the scrambled eggs, the salads that make me want you. Those things are all beautiful, but I love when you shine your brightest: on a Saturday morning bagel with schmear and capers.

Babbling like a brook,



Dear Canned Crab,

You may not be kosher, but you can still be mine.

How hard it must be, to live in the shadow of your limby, shelled cousin, who lives a glamorous life on the casino buffet while you sit mixed with mayo and sour cream on my chip. I promise you, Canned Crab, I love and appreciate you for you, not for who you could have been before they ran you through that processor.

I love you mixed with mayo and herbs and breadcrumbs, resting fancily in the divit of my avocado. I love you in spicy, tomatoey pasta. And I’ll say it again, I love you in a dip.

You’re a sometimes treat, an unkosher rebellion I can’t seem to shake.

Come out of your shell,



Dear Gefilte Fish,

I don’t miss you when you’re gone, but after each time I see you, I remember you all year.

Tail as old as time,


Header image design by Grace Yagel; original illustrations by TheModernCanvas / Getty Images.

Sara Lebow

Sara Lebow is a New York-based writer who honestly seems like she is trying way too hard to be funny. You can find more of Sara's words in her food and humor newsletter at tinyletter.com/loudfriend or on twitter at @SlebowSays.

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