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Photos by Derek Richmond © 2009

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Sardines.  One thinks of them in a flat can in oil or water.  Or if you live in a busy city then one thinks of them as human beings packed into the subway or bus.  My perfect idea of a sardine is fresh, glistening like an oil slick, smelling of the sea.

Fresh sardines are such an easy meal and so good for you.  An oily fish full of omega 3 that partners well with lemon and parsley, potato salad, frittata and a crisp bottle of white wine. Perfect Summer feast.  Holidaying in Southern Spain whilst in my twenties beget me many a meal of sardines.  Standing at the bar fumbling Spanish, ordering tapas, everything caught that day, grilled simply, ate quickly.

I don’t know if or when I’ll ever return to that place in Spain but my memory of it endures, along with another of a hill top restaurant where we would go for brunch.  Ajo Blanco, a cold garlic almond soup, with frittata and bread.  Looking out over the pool and across the soft valley, morning fog in my head, sweet garlic taste and cold fresh eggness in my mouth. Life, oh joy.

A recent trip to Isaac and Stein fish wholesaler in Chicago landed me some sardines.  I brought them home, split them and removed the backbone (pretty easy, they are a soft fish) made a stuffing with breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, lemon zest, salt and pepper, preheated the broiler and threw them under, turning once for maybe 15 minutes total cooking time.

I like to keep the heads on my fish, some of you won’t.  I like to see the creature afore me, make friends with it as such, eye to eye.  You can of course remove the offending member if that is your wish.  However, be assured, be close to what you eat, know it like you know yourself.  I hope you know yourself.

Warts and all.

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