The Lifespan of the Herring on My Sandwich

I had guests in from Ontario, from the part of Canada that is south by a long drive from Duluth. We talk often about that oddity, about how strange it feels to drive north to the United States from Waterloo.

They wanted to know what eateries had opened in Duluth since their last visit. I took them to Northern Waters Restaurant in the Mount Royal Shopping Center, where we enjoyed a two-hour lunch.

There are two joys about eating at Northern Waters. One is the unique pricing. Tax and tip are rolled in, so I never worry about whether my companions tip well enough, or whether I tip well enough. That is a greater relief than I expected.

The more substantive dimension is the food, of course. I had the sandwich with the catch of the day. It was a herring sandwich, and I ordered it with a sense of adventure. My whole life, my only experience of herring was pickled, typically stabbed with a toothpick and put on a cracker. I giggled nervously as I ordered it. It was so very tasty.

As I left, I ran into a friend who was chatting with the owner and chef. I burbled about the sandwich. The owner seemed to understand my limited palette, giggled with me, then went on about the quality and unique character of herring as a food. A plus, he indicated, is that the lifespan of herring is so short, they don’t absorb as many environmental toxins as other fish.

I was emotionally conflicted. My heart broke, just a little, for the little guys with their shorter lifespan. But how awesome that my little $16 sandwich (including tax and tip) was the product of a chef who understood his fish so well? My guests and I were satisfied and impressed.

1 Comment


about 7 years ago

I wouldn't feel too sad; looks like their lifespan is 6-10 years, which seems pretty good for a fish. Not compared to the possibilities of a Lake Trout, at 41 years. 

Also, their lower toxin loads are also due to their diet. Being lower on the food chain (ie eating small critters instead of other fish) is always better from toxin standpoint. Fish don't "absorb" toxins so much as eat them, same as us. 

-- science nerd and former fish/toxin educator

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