Sushi is old hat in America. Since getting popular during the 1980s and ’90s, sushi has integrated itself into our everyday lives, appearing everywhere from mainstream grocery store cold cases to TV shows and corner restaurants. You see it in malls and on college campuses. Yet some people still find the idea of eating raw fish repellent. For those who hesitate, sitcom writer Phil Rosenthal offers some wisdom to help break the ice on his food show I’ll Have What Phil’s Having. “Here’s how you get into it. You ever have smoked salmon?” he says. “You ever have lox? Lox is the gateway sushi.” I have no motivational equivalent for canned fish. Most Americans are grossed out by the smell, let alone the idea, of canned fish. The fear is as irrational as arachnophobia. It resists logic, but I still can’t resist trying to make sense of it.

One reason I’m so fascinated by people’s aversion is my own devotion to the stuff. I eat canned fish almost weekly. For breakfast, I’ll heat Japanese glazed saury in a skillet to serve over warm white rice. For lunch, I’ll lay oil-cured Spanish anchovies on toasted white bread. On a solo trip to Tokyo, I ate a one-Yen can of sardines for breakfast outside my hotel window and sent a photo of the precarious set up to my other half Rebekah back in Oregon. Pretty much every white person I know thinks I’m disgusting. I think they’re missing out. More… “Ode to Canned Fish”

Aaron Gilbreath is the author of the personal essay collection Everything We Don’t Know, and the ebook This Is: Essays on Jazz. An editor at Longreads, his essays and articles have appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Lucky Peach, Brick, and Saveur. He’s working on a book tentatively titled Tanoshii: Travels in Japan. @AaronGilbreath


[T]he whole plant, instead of rising to the surface of the water as hitherto, hung limp from the fissure where it was placed, and trailed upon the sand. Coincidently, (was it consequently?) a greenish tinge pervaded the water, speedily increasing in depth and opacity. In five days, no object could be discerned six inches from the glass, and my beautiful Aquarium was transformed to an unsightly ditch. — “My Aquarium,” The Atlantic, 1858

For as long as man has tried to keep an aquarium, he’s been struggling to keep it clean. This unavoidable aspect of the hobby was immediately evident on entering the 21st Annual Marine Aquarium Conference of North America in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Put another way, don’t go to a marine aquarium conference expecting a kind of bustling World’s Fair of tanks and fish… More…

Coming from a landlocked state, I have a deep distrust of cooking seafood. My memories of it from childhood mostly involve unrecognizable fillets from deep within the grocer’s freezer. As far as I could tell, there were two types of fish: white and salmon, which came from a can.


I have certainly not outgrown this feeling. There are just so many things that can go wrong with seafood, like death from a bad clam or parasites from swordfish. Even simply buying the seafood is wrought with anxiety. My environmentally conscious fishmonger keeps the list of overfished species right on the counter, right above the dead carcasses of the fish you are warned not to eat to keep the ecosystem from collapsing all together. You want monkfish? Jesus, why don’t you just get a baseball bat and club a… More…