Ever since influencers started snacking on tinned fish in 2021, the shelf-stable cans of sardines, anchovies, and other oily fish have developed a cult following on social media. First, the internet declared the tinned treats “hot girl food”; and now, they’ve become the centerpiece of TikTok’s latest trend: tinned fish date night.
The San Francisco-based chef and TikTokker Ali Hooke is responsible for popularizing the idea in September after posting a video of her and her husband’s tinned fish Friday night routine. Hooke’s elaborate tinned fish spread — artfully arranged on a serving board — features cheese, crackers, grapes, and three different types of premium tinned fish, from white tuna to Galician mussels.
The post, which has over 2.6 million views, has inspired other foodtokkers to post their own tinned fish date night ideas, which have collectively accumulated more than 18.4 million views under the tag #tinnedfishdatenight.
@alihooke Friday Night #tinfishdatenight we missed a week while traveling and are stoked for tonight! #chefsoftiktok #datenightideas #easydinnerrecipes #tinnedfish #sardines #tinnedfish ♬ original sound - Ali
While canned fish is typically ubiquitous and cheap — an Everyman’s snack — TikTokkers have elevated the appetizer by serving it alongside expensive wines, artisanal breads, and caviar. In a word, it’s bougie.
“People want to embody that European ideal of minimalist, simple, casual elegance,” Fishwife co-founder Becca Millstein told Nylon. “What is sexier than sitting on your veranda with a glass of wine and a toasty baguette and a glug of olive oil? It’s a very sensual eating experience.”
@kendall.andronico Finally jumped on the tinned fish train, inspired by @Ali ! #tinnedfish #tinnedfishtok ♬ original sound - Kendall Andronico
It’s easy to see parallels with the butter board trend, which also saw social media influencers creating elegant, Instagrammable communal spreads on expensive (yet rustic) cutting boards.
Part of the appeal might be these trends' simplicity. In minutes, you too can have a tasteful spread fit for the cover of a magazine (or, more accurately, your Instagram feed). Or, as Amelia Nierenberg points out in her New York Times article on butter boards, perhaps the return to communal recipes and dining is a sign of the waning pandemic, a sign that things are returning to normal.
“The butter board is an augur of feasts to come," she writes.