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Thursday, 10 March 2011

Poor little things-pauvre petit bebettes-Armer kleinen

School of Sardines @ Mactan Cebu, Philippines ...Image via WikipediaSardines - humble little things, but oh so delicious!
You all know these little things, so compressed, like us, in our own little world!
Even more so, if that's possible.
On the other hand, if you live in a place like I do, where they are almost "tradition", then you know that they don't come, born, without heads, without tails, with little bones we can crunch, submerged by some concotion of poor quality oil, of doubtful origin, or immersed in some kind of "sauce" sometimes reddish, sometimes other colours the taste of which is a guessing game.
No they come like this:.. and they are a delicacy.
What Summer could ever be complete without the smells and sights of "Sardines au feu du bois" fresh from the barbecue, simple, delicious and with large chunks of
Slices of French BreadImage via Wikipedia
CRUSTY BREAD.......
Somewhere around 99% of amateur weekend chefs get it wrong on the barbecue.
Cooked - yes, the outer skin crispy, the inner flesh moist but cooked -
Burnt almost black, and dry inside....no thank you!
If you get it right, then all you need to know now is how to eat them!
Nothing is more amusing and often infuriating, than watching tourists or guests carefully degaging (or trying to) the little filets from the backbone, with knife and fork, and swearing inwardly about "waste of damned time"........Sardines must be eaten with the fingers, and if you don't like the idea - don't order them! ..
I'll accept that some of you may prefer to "decapitate" the poor little things, but then only after grilling, please! 
The eyes of any fish are a signal point - firstly for its freshness and condition, and secondly for its state of cooking at any given point during the frilling, frying, roasting and so on. If, on purchase, the eyes are sparkling, the gills (when lifted) show a healthy rosé/reddish colour  then you've got a good quality in your hands. When you're cooking it, when the eyes are "glazed" or opaque white, then this indicates generally that the article is cooked (the latter rule obviously depends on the size of the fish in question, particularly thickness) 
Why, you ask , must they be eaten with the fingers....? 
Well, simply because of their size. I'm not advocating that you lift your sole by the tail and push it into your mouth....no - no, but the humble sardine is small, has been designed by nature with a "holding point" (the tail) or even two holding points (head and tail), as the educated gentleman is doing here: ..Traditionally the teeth just rub up and down the fleshy filets which, if cooked perfectly, just fall off into the mouth.
Some crispy bread, ripped of also with the fingers, and .....life is good!
I watched, many years ago, in a place called Rijeka in Croatia, a demonstration by two Croat businessmen on how to do this.
After wiping their fingers genteely with the lemon halves on their plates, they then wiped their now fishy, lemony fingers on the pieces of bread and then popped the bread into the mouth....everything clean - plates, fingers - the lot! Incidentally, there are quite a lot of dishes which traditionally should be eaten with the fingers, just finding out which ones.. can sometimes be problematic....!
Sardines are one!
Maybe this little article will change your opinion about the humble sardine, and maybe you'll pay it more respect in the future...after all it's us who pack ourselves into underground train carriages, or onto Motorways like.....SARDINES...
School of Sardines @ Mactan Cebu, PhilippinesImage via Wikipedia
***********iwmpop (mr le marquis)              -           Vauvert, France         -      Mars 2011





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******* iwmpop (mr le marquis)- Vauvert, France - Janvier 2011