A fishy business

Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 13:08
Decorative sardines made out of cloth

Many years ago we used to visit Portugal with our sons. As well as visiting the beach, playing tennis and eating ice cream down on the waterfront, a favourite occupation was eating in traditional restaurants. (Let me advise you always to choose the restaurants where the Portuguese themselves eat. In my view, the food is tastier and they are much better value for your money. In short, the posher the food the less good it is!) At this time of the year, starting around St John's night, grilled sardines seasoned with sea salt and accompanied by a crisp green salad is a popular choice of main dish.

In fact, as you can see above, the Portuguese have gone totally crazy about sardines. Those above are stuffed fabric ones but there are ceramic ones too - there's a series of about 50 different designs.

To see more about sardines and a special sardine shop in Porto, click here.


Here are two ceramic sardines I was given as a present. One is painted like a banana. The other has a design of a café with a client, his dog and a waiter!


Decorative ceramic sardines

But what do you do if you want sardines out of season? Or you'd like them flavoured with something other than sea salt? Then why not visit the sardine shop in Porto. There they have more tins of sardines than anyone could imagine.

A wall covered in sardine tins

They even come on a mini ferris wheel and a train.

A display of sardines on a toy train

I've even seen wooden gift boxes of sardines with between three and six cans in motorway service stations. This has always puzzled me. Who drives up to the petrol pump to fill up and says to themselves suddenly, "Oh Goodness! I've forgotten to buy a present for Great Aunt Isabela. What can I get for her?" and then goes into the shop for a restorative coffee and exclaims, "Ah, wonderful! The very thing. A gift box set of tinned sardines. Aunty Isabella will be so pleased!" Well clealry somebody must do!

So should you find yourself worrying about a forgotten present on your way to the airport, just pull into a service station and buy a wooden box of sardines!

Are there any favourite specialist shops that you know and love? Please write in and tell us about ones that you go to. (If you are Portuguese, please feel free to write in your own language. You don't have to write in English. Lembre-se: o que é importante não é a língua mas a contribuição.)


jeremy pickard wrote:
Thursday, July 16, 2020, 15:45
Alas sardines have become failry expensive. In Matosinhos you used to walk down the street and every restaurant had a brazier where the sardines were grilled alongside the padron peppers and the odd squid and prawn kebab. Now the road is one way and the pavement has been widened so the restaurants have posh glass shelters outside, and the insides are very smart and clean. At the end of your meal you get a proper till receipt instead of a grubby scribble and the total is of the same order as the UK.
Food still pretty good, however!
Margaret Bradley wrote:
Friday, July 17, 2020, 16:43
Yes, prices are rising in Portugal. Eating out costs more than it used to, though there are inexpensive options such as the daily lunches prepared for working people, but Portuguese cooking is still good value for money. When I look at the cost of my supermarket shopping basket I am surprised at how much more expensive everything is than only a few years ago but I comfort myself with the thought that the increased variety of products and even the higher cost means that for most Portuguese, life is improving. I hope I am right.

Oh and grilled sardines are just as delicious as they always were. Complemented by a crisp salad they rival ambrosia for the fields of paradise - at leas that is how it seems after 4 months of Covid-19 lockdown!
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