Hooked on the Fishwife Life

A tale of terrific tinned fish

Whether or not you’ve tried our Breadventure Appetizer yet (more on that in a moment), the odds are pretty good that you might already be familiar with the Los Angeles-based Fishwife. Tinned fish is having a moment—garnering attention and getting airtime everywhere from Food & Wine to Serious Eats, CBS Morning News to TikTok, and even your favorite Zingerman’s catalogs and enews. (To be fair, that last one’s a little different, since we’re not exactly hoping on a bandwagon. At the risk of sounding like your friend who insists they loved a band long before they were popular, tinned fish isn’t just a trend for us. Zingerman’s Delicatessen and Mail Order have been sharing their love of tinned fish since the ’80s and ’90s and the entire Zingerman’s Community prides itself on sourcing and promoting traditionally made foods. We digress… ) So, Fishwife’s arrival onto the scene couldn’t have been better timed, but had it not been for the pandemic, it might never have even been created at all. 

Two tinned fish fans, Fishwife co-founders Becca Millstein and Caroline Goldfarb, had a lightbulb moment together on a hike in early 2020. As Millstein explained to Eater:

We realized that, although there were countless Americans who adored high-quality tinned fish, there was no American company catering to this audience. After this initial realization, the need became abundantly clear for a new American tinned seafood company built on an ethos of quality and ethical sourcing, and I could clearly imagine the path toward building it.

The result was Fishwife: “a woman-founded and led food company aiming to make ethically sourced, premium, and delicious tinned seafood a staple in every cupboard.” The pair shared with Vogue that what excited them most about the endeavor “is how well the concept fits into modern American life,” noting that tinned fish is “sustainable, affordable, convenient, and packed with health benefits,” and dubbing it “the true fast food.” Fishwife’s moniker is a term that dates back to the 16th century. Originally used to refer to women who sold their husbands’ or fathers’ daily catch at the market, it evolved into a bit of a derogatory term. As Goldfarb explains, 

These women were known as both notoriously loud and foul-mouthed, hardy, and resourceful. “Fishwife” simultaneously evolved into a gendered insult for mouthy, brash women, and a reference to powerful, entrepreneurial women. As foul-mouthed, fish-slinging entrepreneurial ladies, the term deeply resonates.

Today, Millstein and her team (Goldfarb has shifted to focus on her television comedy writing career) have arguably succeeded in reclaiming the word Fishwife. They’re also helping to change people’s minds about just how great sustainable seafood can be, especially when, as is the case with tinned fish, there’s no prep work required to enjoy it. Here at the Roadhouse, we’re all in on spreading the word on the wonders of tinned fish, so we’ve added three of Fishwife’s offerings to our menu.

Our Tinned Fish Twosome

Fishwife Anchovies

Rich, buttery anchovies, caught in the Cantabrian Sea and sourced from Europe’s only Marine Stewardship Council-certified sustainable fishery. The anchovies are salt-cured and then hand-packed into tins with premium Spanish extra virgin olive oil by a third-generation, family-owned cannery in Northern Spain.

Fishwife Sardines with Hot Peppers

These sardines are wild-caught at night, off the coast of Cornwall, by fisherfolk with sustainability certifications, then canned in Galicia, in the same cannery mentioned above, hand-packed with that great Spanish olive oil, with a little hot pepper stuffed in the tin to give the fish a hint of heat.

You’ll find these terrific tinned fishies listed as add-on options for our Breadventure Appetizer (thanks for sticking with us friends, we told you we’d get here eventually!). This is no simple starter, no mere bread basket, it is a terrifically tasty ode to artisan bread. Available in two sizes, both are served with warm slices of bread (Better Than San Francisco Sourdough and Roadhouse bread from our partner business, Zingerman’s Bakehouse), cultured butter with French sea salt (from Vermont Creamery), and fresh thyme. Then, to really take these platters over the top and make them as unique as your crew, choose an add-on (or three or four) from a whole slew of selections including, yes, Fishwife tinned fish and many more savory and sweet options.

Come on in to hang with fellow tinned fish fans and try this tasty trio of offerings from Fishwife. Make a reservation or just swing by when the urge for sustainable seafood strikes (you can also grab a tin or two to-go from our retail area!)—either way, we can’t wait to see you soon.