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Water-dwellers - Portugal: The Fish that Changed it All

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks

Portugal: The Fish that Changed it All

When people ask, as they sometimes do, what is the best meal I (Doc) have ever eaten, one of the top contenders is a very simple lunch I had years ago on the beach in southern Portugal.

I was traveling with friends and, since we were on a very strict budget, we decided to camp out on the beach instead of staying in a hotel. Fortunately, not far from our makeshift campsite was a small, open-air restaurant, really nothing more than a handful of tables with a roof over them, right on the sand. There wasn’t much in the way of equipment—a wood-burning grill, a hot plate, and a large cooler—and when we arrived there didn’t seem to be much food, either. It looked like some greens and maybe some fried potatoes were about all we could look forward to. But there was cold white wine in the cooler, and it was a beautiful day, so we settled in. Unfortunately, we couldn’t seem to get our hosts to serve us any food. After about half an hour, though, we discovered why: The entrée was just arriving. A small fishing boat pulled up right on the beach and several men jumped out and brought pails of fish up the dunes. The young cook paid for them, quickly cleaned them, and threw them on the wood fire that he had built up when the boat came into sight. I must admit, though, that I was a little apprehensive. These fish, I was told by my friends, were sardines, and I had never been a fan of dark-fleshed, oily fish. But this meal changed that forever. The salad was crisp and refreshing, the potatoes earthy and satisfying, but the sardines stole the show. Hot off the grill, with crispy skin and rich, dark, succulent flesh, they were a revelation. Oily fish became my friends, and still are to this day.

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