a good collective noun


The south facing kitchen is illuminated by rays of bright, low autumn sun which are in part diffused by the rideaux on  the window whilst the open door creates a geometric gash of gold on the tiled floor. There is very little sound save for the buzzing of a solitary, weary wasp, unexpected at this late time of the year, as I sit down to a light lunch which would have been described by my grandpa as a “drop of sardines”. This collective was a favourite of my maternal grandfather who was Portuguese and who lived with us from when I was first conscious of people to the day I left home for good in 1966. I had left home for bad in 1962 but glandular fever had stopped play so I was forced to limp back to the bosom of my family. My father was not overly happy about the return of his prodigal as he felt that once breast feeding was no longer a necessity then sons should go out into the world and find their own bosoms in which to nestle. However, it was during this fitful interregnum that I spent some time with my grandfather, then in his early 90’s, and became familiar with his delight in tinned sardines; a last gasp link with his beloved Portugal. Having lived in England for the previous 70 years his grasp of English was extremely firm save for some eccentricities that I’m sure he employed to annoy my father, who had never quite understood how or why my grandfather had been in his house for the last 30 years, but which were wasted as my father was also deaf. I have few interesting culinary memories from my early years as eating was considered as fuel and so, as a subject of interest, entered family conversation as often as the current style of my mother’s knickers. One of those few memories came to mind this morning which is why I was sitting before a “drop of sardines” au Grandpere which he served in the only way that our family’s Spartan larder would allow – a couple of fillets of sardines with oil from the tin ( the only good ingredients), malt vinegar, some slices of tasteless tomato and white bread on a white plate. My current version consists of millésime sardines, thick slices of very good tomatoes, vinaigre de Xérès, good olive oil and very good bread. There is no doubt in my mind that he would have eaten them like that, as a young man, in his home town of Olhao in the Algarve,

About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in 2017, Childhood, Digital photography, Fish, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Olive oil, Photography, sardines, tomatoes, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to a good collective noun

  1. Sue says:

    Let’s raise a well presented sardine in memory of your grandfather!

  2. Mad Dog says:

    The light here has been quite orange and peculiar today, with the hurricane off the west coast. It became (almost) nighttime at 3pm and all the streetlights come on. Popper daylight is being restored now, with a fain hint of blue to the west.
    Love your sardines and memories. I’ve found a fantastic place in the People’s Republic of Cataluña called Entre Latas (between tins) – a tin shop devoted almost entirely to tinned fish and a few bottles of vermut. I have never seen so much beautiful packaging in one place!

  3. What a stunning window opened for a moment allowing us a peak back down the shaft of light called time. Wonderful. My Pa loved sardines too – out of a tin. With the white bread and butter and a big cup of tea with milk.

  4. Roger, you mention millésime sardines. Are these perchance from JC David? I had the good Monsieur David’s millésime sardines at a restaurant in Paris, and they were wonderful. I have not been able to find them since. I am a poorer man for that.

  5. What a wonderful memory picture you painted today for us. I think I would have very much liked your grandpa.

  6. Eha says:

    An absolutely brilliantly lit and set photo to accompany a distant memory brought into the world of today . . you made me smile realizing that a few raw herring fillets with some onions atop would probably make me think of tales of my own childhood . . . must try as the quiet twilight hour approaches . . .

  7. Francesca says:

    It’s amazing when things go back to their original source, – real bread, good oil, simple can of sardines – and always, in the case of canned sardines, the vinegar, a small not-. how good they are. Granpere left you a wonderful food memory.

  8. Linda Duffin says:

    Lovely story, Roger, and the sardines look splendid. I’m sure your grandad would be been proud (and a bit peckish). Lx

  9. What a lovely story. I used to love sardines sandwiches for lunch when I was little. Made me even less popular at school! But this does remind me that I have sardines in the cupboard.

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