All Tinned Up

Seacuterie Boards Are the Latest TikTok Food Trend

Canned fish is quickly usurping the humble charcuterie spread. Will Houstonians jump on the craze?

By Daniel Renfrow May 15, 2023

TerraMar Imports, an international gourmet food purveyor located in Spring Branch, offers over 30 varieties of tinned fish. 

In 1795, the French Revolutionary Wars were raging, and General Napoleon Bonaparte had a major problem: food that spoiled before it could get to his army. The soon-to-be-emperor ponied up a 12,000-franc reward for whoever could invent a food-preservation method effective enough to feed his men. Fifteen years later, in 1810, Nicolas Appert, a French candymaker, collected the prize money for his canning process, granting vegetables, meat, fruit, and fish greatly extended shelf lives. The innovation took off in Europe and then expanded to other continents. Whole industries rose around the tinning of fish.

While our friends across the pond have for a long time made space on their tables for tinned seafood, viewed as luxury items in places like Spain and Portugal, the trend never really caught on stateside—until TikTok influencers got involved, that is. The power of the seacuterie board stems from its versatility and the endless variety of aquatic life—clams to mussels, cockles to squid, sardines to tuna or cod—that can make it onto a spread.

Riccardo Guerrieri, cofounder and president of VinSanto, a wine bar and bistro that recently opened in Memorial, is a longtime fan of tinned fish. Though the reason for the item’s addition to his menu hearkens back to the birth of the now-delicacy: its long shelf life. “Tinned fish is perfect,” says Italian-born Guerrieri, who likes to pair his canned seafood with orange wines of the natural variety. “In San Francisco, Paris, or New York, they are doing this all the time. The ingredients are high quality.”

Guerrieri chooses to arrange his tinned fish on plates alongside pickles, bread, extra virgin olive oil, and other accoutrements instead of serving it in its can, and sources his fish locally from TerraMar Imports, a Houston-based international gourmet food purveyor.

From TerraMar Imports's 60,000-square-foot warehouse in Spring Branch, Guerrieri, Houston chefs, and local grocers like Central Market can select from over 60 varieties of tinned fish. Caroline Laramore, TerraMar Imports' VP of sales, believes the pandemic is partly responsible for the rise of the seacuterie trend in the United States. “It really had a resurgence in Europe during COVID because people were cooking at home again, and they couldn’t do elaborate meals all the time,” she says. “It had a renaissance there, and then that just blended over into the US.”

When putting together your first seacuterie board at home, Laramore says it’s important to view it as a fun way to expand your palate. “Don’t be afraid to experiment with things,” she says. “The cool part is that it’s an affordable luxury. If you want to try out a few things, you can do so at an affordable price.” She recommends pairing tinned fish with cheeses and adding in some fresh veggies, breads, and olives.

If you’re still not sure where to start with your inaugural foray into tinned fish, may we suggest eating with your eyes? Choose the prettiest cans first, because if this European-born craze ends up not being quite right for your Houstonian tastes, at least you’ll end up with an aesthetically pleasing photo to post.

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