January 11, 2012

Bloody Goldfish on toast for supper again.

My dad was an Antarctic adventurer.  Unsure quite what to do in life, not yet ready to settle into teaching after his University studies in maths and a diploma in education, and following a career so far speckled with odd and interesting jobs he answered an ad in the paper seeking people to join an Antarctic Expedition crew for a year.  He did a crash course in meteorology, Antarctic survival stuff, and sailed for the icebound continent in 1956 or thereabouts as a 'weather guesser'.  They were primitive times back then, he was only the second crew to man their station at Davis, so they inherited a one-room hut and took with them the makings of the rest of the station on board the ship, which they had to build as soon as they got there.  Small crew, all men, with very limited contact via dodgy radio with the outside world for a year or more.

And of course they had to take all their own food with them.  Though there could also be trying moments when one gets (for example) stuck in a blizzard that lasts 14 days with only a week's supply of food (which is how much you take for a 2-day field trip in Antarctica, just in case).  Certain unpalatable truths about seal meat, dog flesh, and so on are learned too.

Huskies (the dogs they used to use for getting around back then) can live off a diet very high in seal meat, so long as you don't then eat the dogs, especially the dog's livers.  Certain vitamins get concentrated to toxic levels.  Fun But Obvious Fact - dead seal freezes, so the best way to cut it up is like a log; in rounds, with a chainsaw.  Glad you know that now? :-) This is the Antarctic Leopard seal. They are notoriously unfriendly.  Do not try to pat one.

Luckily, my father's expedition had a Frenchman in the crew who just happened to be an excellent cook.  He didn't just bake bread, he plaited loaves specially, and gave them some actual variety and joy when it was his turn to cook.  But of course, nearly everything that went down with them was tinned.  And you can imagine the boredom of the same tinned diet over and over and over for months and interminable months in a small building with 6 or 7 others.

Which brings me to the Bloody Goldfish.  That's the typically Aussie name they gave the detested Sardines in Tomato Sauce - detested not for any reason other than because there were so bloody many of the bloody little things, meaning they were a most frequent dietary item.

I've never eaten a tinned sardine in my life, and we certainly never had them in our house when I was growing up.  Dad would make shuddery comic-disgust faces whenever someone said the word 'sardine' and mutter "uuurrgh Bloody Goldfish" under his breath.

One erstwhile tubie momma (her boy has successfully weaned and eats like a champ now) had a standard super-food blend she'd make involving sardines, avocado and olive oil.  Yes, heavy on the fats but they're all good fats and when you have a look at the breakdown of nutrients it's an amazingly full and power-packed blend.  She'd add other stuff around this but this was a very regular blend backbone.

Recently, in the course of research for my book and through life in general I've been prompted to think about including some more animal-sourced foods in my diet.  I am typically a lacto-vegetarian blender you see, relying mainly on legumes, nuts, seeds and dairy for my proteins.  Very very rarely I'd blend egg if it had been baked in something or if we had egg leftover from a meal for guests.  Just easier when you have a vegetarian household - no meat-handling issues in the fridge or sink etc.  Still, Meeta's fine with my consuming whatever as long as I'm 'clean' about it and eventually I decided I would.  I'd start with these little oily fish that are so calorie-dense and so good for you.

I've spoken of it before, the advantage I have of being my own blender, and able to communicate; I can 'listen' to my own body, and in fact removing the distractions of taste and smell and all that joyous stuff around eating has made me even more keenly aware of how food feels and how my body responds to it.  And it was saying it wanted sardines.  Also, maybe some emu, kangaroo, and some bone broth-type stuff, probably from a cow.  Emu is my favourite meat of all; if you're a carnivore and you've never tried it, seriously do yourself a favour.

Of course, I wouldn't buy the Bloody Goldfish.  Apart from anything, it's hard enough finding good sustainably-fished sardines from local waters let alone ones with organic extras so good ol' spring water it was for my little tinned guys.  I have eaten sardines before, but fresh luscious ones caught earlier that day, not the tinned ones, as I mentioned.  They do go with tomato really well.  And it's tomato season in my garden right now:  here's what I blended:

Tins sardines in springwater x 2
Light rye sourdough bread w caraway seeds (org, baked by me that morning),  large chunk.
Lettuce, various types, from the garden
Tomatoes, cherry pear variety, from the garden
Capsicum (bell pepper) from the garden
Basil and marjoram, from the garden
Garlic cloves, locally grown
Organic tomato paste
EVOO, organic, from just down the road.

I had an avocado in the fridge but it turned out to be what lots of chefs I know call a 'hand grenade' so its grey mooshiness is now happily feeding worms.  I added a splash more oil because of this.

As food, I imagine having roasted the little tomatoes and peppers in some oil, and mushed them into the sardines on to fresh hot toasted crusty rye sourdough, with the herbs roughly chopped through and some salad leaves.  Mm.

I didn't weigh or measure, and got 2 litres of pretty thick but rich and smooth not-too-fishy-smelling ochre-coloured blend that I had roughly estimate at about 35-40 cal/oz.  Not too fatty, and a good spread of nice nutrients. Very 'crunchy' in the green/locavore/organic/hippy sense too if you're not hung up on the whole animal death thing.  And I have to say, a couple of hours after a feed, it feels really very good.

I plan to honour the demise of a few more animals by consuming their flesh thoughtfully and respectfully in as friendly a way to them and our planet as I can in the near future.  I'll keep you all appraised of any interesting developments. :-)

This is Davis station in the summer after my dad lived there.  The Vestfold Hills area of Antarctica remains relatively ice-free, especially in summer.  Nice climate too.  On mid-summer days the temperature may even get up to freezing point - t-shirt weather.  40 below was more typical though.



  1. Wonderful post! What an adventurer your father was-- thanks for sharing. ~Tonya

  2. Oh Eric, you have me in stitches yet again! I'll bet there was never a dull moment in your house growing up.

    I just love your blog, your perspective, your ability to express what my non-verbal daughter cannot say about eating by g-tube. And, of course, your humor always makes my day. Because of that, I have nominated you for a Liebster Blog Award. You can grab the button over at my page and read the instructions for passing it along to other great blogs.

  3. carve seal into log slices. got it.
    :-) but seriously, THANKS -- and i am so glad the sardines are feeling good to you! they certainly seemed to do so for zandy.


  4. Thanks guys! Rose-Marie thanks for the kind words. I'll look into that award thing, cheers!