Steven C. Levi
7 min readFeb 23, 2020




Steven Levi

There are in this world, alas, far too many people who do not properly appreciate or revere the anchovy. I know this may come as a shock to many readers but there are a large number of people in both America and abroad who are not fans of this fine fish. They eschew anchovies. They go to incredible lengths to avoid the tasty beastie. Barbarians they may be, but there a lot of them.

Moreover, to many anchovy gourmands, of course, this is un-understandable. While it is certainly true that the noble anchovy is zesty, rarely does it lack a unique taste. It also adds zip, pizzazz and sometimes an indefinable maritime sensation to an otherwise dull meal. After all, what’s a Caesar salad without the snap of anchovies? Why serve a pizza and fail to add a layer of the sumptuous delight? And why, pray tell, would anyone make a blue cheese and scallion sandwich and then neglect the delicate fillets of palatal delight? (Sourdough bread, please!)

Now, for those unfortunate readers who are not that familiar with the anchovy — and it must be admitted that there are a few — an anchovy is not a sardine. A sardine is a clupeid while an anchovy is an egraulidae. A sardine is a herring while an anchovy is, well, an anchovy. References to anchovies and sardines as being similar rise from time to time but this is a red herring for other than having similar tails, living in the water and being of approximately the same size — i.e., small — the two fish have nothing is common. An anchovy is a gourmet’s delight; a sardine is a fish in a can you eat on a camping trip when all your other food is gone.

An anchovy is also not a salmon and one cannot confuse it with a halibut. A salmon, for instance, is large. Salmon is most commonly found on dinner plates with sprigs of mint or parsley while anchovies are usually associated with two ounce, squash shaped oval tins. Halibut are easily distinguishable from anchovies in that they must be shot with a machine pistol before they are dragged onto a boat. Anchovies do not require such extreme measures.

The anchovy is also different from pork and lamb. Pork is a white meat and lamb ribs can serve a wide of variety of purposes including string holders for your garden and markers on which you may stick labels indicating what kind of vegetables are not going to be growing in each spot along the furrow. Anchovy fillets might be confused with T-bone steak because both meats have similar colors but there the similarity ends. You cannot barbeque the anchovy and dogs have a difficult time burying anchovy bones.

As every true anchovy lover knows, there are three great Satans in their epicurean Garden of Eden. The first of these — and it will come as no great surprise — are pizza parlors that treat the noble fish as if it were garnish and not food. These philistines dry the delicate fillets until they have the consistency of toothpicks. Then they toss the fish sticks onto a small plate under a heavy cover of equally dry Parmesan cheese and expect civilized people to consume them.

The second great Satan is the poorly manufactured pull tab on the top of the oval tins. Running an average of six to a gross, these faulty rings snap off mid-pull. This is advantageous for the slow draining of the oil bathing fluid but the pristine fate of the fillets will depend on how dexterous the gourmet is with a pair of pliers. Using the correct tool is critically important for too wide a grip could damage the integrity of the fillets. Pliers that are too small offer no grip at all. Needle-nose pliers should never be used as they scare the fish.

Other Satans aside, the greatest enemy of the anchovy lover is a wife. Coming one to a customer, at least sequentially, these nefarious individuals are known to perform such despicable actions as removing anchovies from shopping lists, burying the tins in the bottom of the flour canister and performing a rendition of dry heaves at the counter of the pizza parlor when anchovies are ordered along with black olives and Canadian bacon. Though it is not specifically recorded in the Bible in Genesis 2:19, when Adam was naming the moose “moose” and the elephant “Jumbo,” Eve was naming the anchovy “inedible” and has treated it that way ever since. That’s what started the war between wives and anchovies. Of course Eve wasn’t married at the time but that really doesn’t matter. It only goes to prove that the animosity between women and anchovies started very early in human history.

This animosity has not abated since. Persuasion has not and does not work. Neither do bribery or negotiation. Cleverness fails as well. Slipping anchovies into a dish does not pass unnoticed and the wrath of God is unequal to that brought on by a wife’s discovery of a dollop of anchovy paste in Key Lime Pie filling. Anchovy snacking on the side is acceptable as long as one’s wife is out of town for a week and the snacking is done on the first or second day — only.

One of the shrewdest schemes ever attempted involved the assistance of an anchovy-loving MD. A husband, hen-pecked by his wife to ‘see someone about that cold,’ convinced his doctor to write him a prescription for anchovy paste: three tablespoons a day for the life of the tube — with a gross of refills. When the wife called her husband to make sure he had indeed gone to the medical practitioner, the husband replied that he had and lab results confirmed he suffered from a condition known as “anchiovitis.” The unsuspecting but worried wife began to write down the condition and stopped when she came to the “o” in the spelling. Thereafter she was not amused. Nor was she pleased and the husband could not fill the prescription — or its refill.

There is only one cure for anchiovitis, the lack of anchovies in one’s diet. It’s more anchovies. Or, in the case of most men who love anchovies and live with women who don’t, it’s any anchovies. A dreaded condition for which there is no cure, anchiovitis can strike at any time, most frequently in supermarkets or pizza parlors. Though curable, the long-term effects are a truculent wife and years of washing dishes by hand.

If you are suffering from anchiovitis and live with a woman who does not like the exquisite taste of God’s gift to the human palate, you have several options. The first is divorce. The second is to openly consume anchovies in which case you will most likely find yourself divorced. A third and less radical solution is to develop a liking for limburger cheese and sauerkraut as a main dish. Together, these smells will overwhelm the delicate aroma of the anchovy. Garlic sandwiches will achieve the same result. A fourth solution is to smoke cigars, another sure-fire way to cover the fragrance of the anchovy.

Yet another method is to simply eat the anchovies and when your wife complains, remark that she hates anchovy’s so much that she suspects everything to be an anchovy. This rarely works. Another ploy that does not work is devouring anchovies openly and stating that the fish is about to be declared an endangered species and you are trying to consume your fair share before such organizations as the Friends of the Sea and People for the Ethical Treatment of Seafood make the possession of an anchovy a criminal offense.

The inevitable result of anchiovitis is men standing around alleys munching on fillets out of brown paper bags. In the most virulent strain of the disease, men can be seen behind pizza parlors with pockets full of readywipes so they will not return home smelling of olive oil and fish. It is a sad commentary on life in the early years of the new millennium that men must flee the comforts of home and hearth to indulge in what can only be described as a gourmet pursuit. If you know of man who suffers from this dreaded condition, advise him to contact Anchovies Anonymous, an organization specifically established to cure men of their guilt over loving anchovies. Thousands have been saved; you could be next.

*Steve Levi has more than 80 books in print or on Kindle. He specializes in books on the Alaska Gold Rush and impossible crimes. An impossible crime is one in which the detective has to solve HOW the crime was committed before he can go after the perpetrators. In the MATTER OF THE DESERTED AIRLINER, an airplane with no pilot, crew or passengers lands at Anchorage International Airport. As the authorities are pondering the circumstances of the arrival, a ransom demand is made for $25 million in diamonds and precious stones. Chief of Detectives for the Sandersonville, North Carolina, Police Department, Captain Heinz Noonan, is visiting his in-laws in Anchorage when he is called onto the case. For the next 36 hours, he pieces together the puzzle of how the crime was committed. But can he solve the crime, free the hostages and locate the perpetrators before the ransom is paid?