Is it just me, or do anchovies have a really hard time of it? When it comes to food, everyone has likes and dislikes and even a food enthusiast, such as myself, is okay with that (although, I do get a little judgemental if someone is “not really a dessert person”).
It’s a different story when it comes to anchovies. I mean, there’s a real hatred of those salty little fishes and I can’t help but feel it’s a smidge undeserved.
Anchovies aren’t disliked in a normal way. There’s real hate there.
People speak of anchovies like they should be outlawed. Following
a swift Googling some in-depth research into the matter, the following appear to be the reasons behind anchovy hate:
- strong fish taste
- too fishy
- salty (and fishy)
I’ve never really understood the blind hatred of various fish on the basis of it being “too fishy” – you rarely hear a person say that chicken is too chickeny, or that steak is too beef-like.
I’ve encountered a surprising number of people who feel a bit funky about fish. They feel okay about fairly neutral-tasting fish or even processed fish like battered fish or the good ol’ fish finger. If it pre-prepared and unlikely to actually smell of fish it’s okay. Then there’s the raw stuff, which can make folk a little twitchy. Finally, there’s the turning point where fish goes from tolerable to being too fishy.
I love all fish and seafood (unsurprisingly), so as such I had originally planned this post to a call to fish haters to cease their fighting and give anchovies a chance.
And then I had a bad anchovy experience.
A Caesar salad. A bad Caesar salad. Limp lettuce, the occasional chicken hunk, a crouton here and there, a sauce of some kind, and a pile of cold anchovies.
It was as if even they knew they were unappetising.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a glimmer of repulsion as the plate was set down on the table. Determined not become a sudden anchovy-hater, I poked the limp leaves, sourced one of the few chicken hunks, and stabbed through one of the (many) anchovies.
My first forkful did nothing to inspire confidence. It tasted as sad as it looked. I’m not a person who really goes for presentation when it comes to food, as anyone who’s been to my house for dinner can attest. But in the case of the sad salad, it was every bit as horrible as it looked.
And I have to say, the anchovies really were the worst part. After reshuffling forkfuls to try and balance out the flavour I admitted defeat and abandoned the shoal of bitter anchovies on their wilted lettuce leaf grave.
I have (reluctantly) arrived at the same conclusion that other more established and reputable food writers have come to in the numerous times this same subject has been written about before.
Have anchovy haters given in to their hate as a result of bad preparation? Or are the fish haters, with their general fish prejudice, concluding that if they don’t like regular fish that they definitely aren’t going to like a fish such as an anchovy that has a reputation for being vile.
In this (not at all scientific) study into the matter, based on little evidence beyond a cursory glance at Google and general culinary here-say, those in favour of anchovies have had well-prepared anchovies that provide a salty little boom to a dish. The latter are still reeling (excuse the pun) from the experience of that bad pizza or revolting Caesar salad.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked from a recipe where the author is almost pleading with the reader to not be put off by the inclusion of anchovies. “You won’t even taste them!” they promise, like a parent trying to get a reluctant child to eat their veggies.
I guess a bad anchovy experience is the make or break moment for most people. But what if an anchovy-hater unknowingly consumed anchovies. Would they find that they’re not as offensive as they’ve been lead to believe?