Fish loves lemon and fish loves oil. Fish likes pepper too, as well as bread. As a companion tomato, fresh at least, isn’t at all out of the question. Fresh tomato has a nice acidity, a contrasting texture. In other forms tomato can work with fish in pasta or a fish stew with a tomato base, fine, sure. But tomato sauce? No! It’s too sweet, too thick, not enough fat to wither contrast or compliment. It’s as likely as anything to overpower the taste of the fish.
I have nightmares of accidently picking up tinned sardines in tomato sauce rather than oil. I’d take the awful cracked pepper or lemon flavours before the concentrated flavours of ketchup and fish trapped in tin. But as the ice-caps melt and moguls fall the world changes, quiet revolutions happen, and I wonder if I am being left behind, stuck in my ruts and old ways. Perhaps I was too quick to judge in my younger years? Maybe, who knows, things have changed. I don’t want to live life in the one lane, the wrong lane. I’m happy to re-examine my beliefs, accept that I was biased, mistaken or just plain wrong. I’m ready for a brave new world. Surely anything is possible if you question that which you take for granted. Perhaps the Red Hot Chilli Peppers won’t sound like audio vomit anymore? Perhaps taking the bus is now quick and fun? A simple perception shift might actually show me that real estate agents are good people trying their best rather than unholy ghouls in cheap suits ever eager to suck the life out of all they come across. More unlikely still, perhaps, the world of tinned sardines and tomato sauce has changed, perhaps it is the go to snack I’m about to fall in love with?
Conservas Santos’ sardines in tomato are from Portugal. The have a lovely, abstract packaging in natural colours and a recycled feeling paper. They look classy, they’re priced classy. They’re the tinned fish equivalent of a smart boutique hotel in a simple uncrowded seaside town. If anything could ever bring me around to the idea of sardines and tomato sauce I feel that these Portuguese fish artists at Conservas Santos have the best chance.
Sadly, though the fish are generally large and without minerality, the tomato while not sweet is also not particularly flavourful. The fish are of different sizes and textures. Some seem over cured, one has eggs and is perhaps responsible for the strange fishy flavour of the sauce which is unlike the actual fish which swim within it. Perhaps this is a bad can, a bad example, but the message is clear. Sometimes snap judgements are borne out of certainty and core beliefs. There can be no redemption for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers or the real estate agents which seek to ruin our lives. There can, for me, be no just marriage of tomato and tinned fish.