Sardines are a polarizing comestible. You either like them, or you don´t.
And as much as I have always liked them, they are not as good stateside as in Portugal. In Portugal, they are a national treasure. The little fishes are deliciously grilled fresh throughout the country from June through September, the best months for them.
Canned, they are a delicacy that comes in many flavors.
They come with olive oil, tomato sauce, spicy olive oil or tomato sauce, or mustard sauce, to name a few.
They are available at the supermarket for about a buck. And gourmet versions run about four or five euros.
We had the immense fun of touring the Pinhais sardine factory in Matosinhos. Matosinhos is just west of Porto and is famous for the fish and fish restaurants.
The Pinhais sardine factory has been in operation since 1920. And they operate pretty much the same way today as they did back then.
The front office and entry have remained unchanged since the 20s.
The Ajuelos tile work is beautiful. Much care went into the design of the factory.
The staircase to the second floor looks like a fish when viewed from below. It is artful and ingenious.
Only the best sardines are chosen for canning by the women who work the floor. They sort and prepare the fish on long marble tables.
After canning, they are hand wrapped in colorful paper. The ladies doing the wrapping
are quick and efficient. We got to try wrapping cans ourselves, and we were slow and inefficient in comparison.
No surprise there.
After taking the tour, we sampled the tinned fish, and they did not disappoint. Our sardine factory adventure ended with a glass of Vinho Verde wine and a sampling of sardines. It was the perfect mid-day snack.
Who knew that canned fish could be so much fun and so delicious?