packed like sardines

It’s been scorching in Central New York since last week, and the weather gurus are promising two more weeks of melting madness. I’m a Northerner at heart — heat like this makes me irritable at best. In our second floor, “afternoon sun-magnet” apartment, the temperature easily soars ten degrees above the outside world. If I wanted to live in a dry sauna, I would’ve installed cedar wall paneling.

Surviving Syracuse heat waves has turned into a bit of a game: We’ll attend any cookout or BBQ we’re invited to, and even jump at the chance to run an errand for a friend at the mall. Mid-day showers have become a ritual, and I haven’t turned my stove on in weeks. We’ve even moved our 9 pm cocktail hour outside into our “front yard,” which, if you lack the imagination, bears an uncanny resemblance to a parking lot.


And, after completing three triathlons this season, swimming and biking will replace running for a few more days.

Just when I’d started to accept my regular afternoon evacuation to pool, cafe, or library, things took a turn for the better: A second air conditioner was bestowed upon us. The saying  “many hands make light work” turns out to be true in the appliance world as well. I guess all our bedroom unit needed was a friend.


And then, as our living space began to inch toward bearable, we inherited a charcoal grill. On the way home from the beach yesterday we picked up some corn (from a roadside stand), wood charcoal (from a big-box store), and sardines (from a boutique fish stop).


Cooking over coals isn’t as glamorous as using the Cadillac back-porch grills: It’s far from instant, and you sort of have to crouch over the grill to tend the food. But it was delicious anyway. Skewers of fresh bright vegetables and local corn complemented the little fish perfectly. At 1.5 grams of omega-3s per 3.5 ounces, sardines are near the top of the omega-3 pyramid and a cheaper alternative to salmon.* They’re also low in mercury, and a best choice in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch initiative.


This past year I started eating canned sardines instead of buying pricey fish oil supplements. Last night, freshly roasted with their skin scarred crisp and brown from the heat, they were a whole different catch.

*Source: The Health Effects of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Seafoods

Grilled Fresh Sardines

fresh sardines, gutted (or frozen and thawed)

salt and pepper

fresh lemons

  1. Set the grill to medium heat. Salt and pepper the fish generously. Grill for a 4-5 minutes per side or until the skin has blistered and serve with fresh lemon wedges.

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