One of the more enjoyable aspects of the way we have chosen to eat is searching out individual food items that we want to eat and suspect could be sourced locally, but for which local varieties are not readily available in our grocery stores.

Since our son loves to eat sardines and other small fish, we set out to find a source of locally caught and locally processed sardines. As you may know, sardines are experiencing something of a resurgence in popularity due to their reputation as a healthy fish that can also be sustainably harvested. Perhaps this would make the search easier for us.

We noticed that our favorite local grocer carried a brand of sardines that was labeled something like “caught off the coast of California”. Excitedly we brought home a can and tried it. While our son polished off the full contents of the can, we took a closer look at the label. In the fine print on the back of the package, we saw the dreaded words “packaged in Vietnam”! These tiny fish, caught only a few hundred miles from our home, were transported across the largest ocean in the world and back again just for our enjoyment. These sardines were clearly unacceptable and the search for a local source began anew.

Our initial plan of action sent us to the web in an attempt to find Oregon caught and canned sardines. While we discovered lots of information about Oregon’s sardine fishery, we couldn’t find anyone who was processing the fish in state. Next, with the memory of the “California” sardines fresh in our minds, we searched for sardines from Washington – no luck – back to California it was.

The search revealed the same sardines that we already knew had their passports stamped prior to arrival on our plates. After a little more digging however, we found something that seemed really great. A company had recently been started that marketed itself as reviving Monterey’s cannery row. They had a charming vintage label and had received some really good press for their efforts to breathe new life into California’s once-storied sardine canning industry. They were available only via direct mail order from the company, so we ordered up a case. We waited patiently.

When the box arrived we didn’t immediately notice that the return address label listed a distributor in the Midwest. We tore open the box, peeled open a can, and discovered the fish to be delicious. Again, as our son packed way a few whole fish, we read the label closely: “Product of Morocco”. Again, we had suffered a total failure in our attempt to eat this simple fish. This time, our little omega-3 laden treats had been caught across a continent and an ocean, shipped to California to receive fancy labels, and then trucked halfway across the country and back.

Our search is on hold until we consume the rest of our carbon-spewing case, but it will resume. Another failure may finally inspire us to learn pressure canning.

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