Hi Everyone, It’s dinnertime. The last roti has been clapped; it collapses in a soft leafy mound atop the other roti in the bowl. The bowl of hot freshly cooked paratha roti sits in the middle of the table for easy reach by the diners. I grab the roti at the top, impatient and hungry. I tear off a piece of roti-that’s barely clinging to the whole-and press it into the red sauce on my plate and snag a piece of sardine. It’s a soft chew. The sauce-laden roti, the soft onions, the piece of fish that still holds its shape, all uniting for a taste of home.
There was a time when canned fish such as sardines were considered a treat – because of their price and scarcity. I remembered as a child that there was a time in Guyana’s history when canned foods such as sardines were banned. Today, sardines are very much everyday fare. I think of sardines as fast food, well, because they are. Sardines are a meal in a can that can be eaten at any meal of the day and in between too.
A couple of months ago my mother and cousin were raving and reminiscing about the taste of Marshall’s Sardines. By the time they were done talking the only thing on my mind were sardines, Marshall’s Sardines in tomato sauce cooked with lots of onions and a couple of potatoes. I always have sardines stocked in my kitchen cupboard. Apart from being something that you can quickly put together for a meal or snack, living in a part of the region that is hurricane-prone 6 months of the year, it is necessary to stock canned food. However, it has been a couple of years since I’ve eaten sardines in tomato sauce-finding them too acidic-and preferring sardines in oil. One of the things that mommy and my cousin kept extolling about Marshall’s sardines in tomato sauce was the total lack of acidity. That alone motivated me to go in search of Marshall’s sardines. My search here in Barbados was futile so I had to get a couple of cans from Guyana.
I set about cooking the Marshall’s sardines seasoned with fresh thyme, black pepper, minced hot peppers and lots of onions that contributed to the overall sweetness of the sauce. Potatoes were a must-have so that was added too. Over a period of two days, I ate my sardines for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and each time, the experience was unique. How come you may ask? On each occasion I ate the sardines and potatoes with a different starch and maybe the time of the day made a difference too.
Generally speaking, when I eat sardines for breakfast, I only eat it with bread; at lunch – with rice and at dinnertime with roti, specifically paratha roti and it must be accompanied with a big mug of tea. So that is how I ate the Marshall’s sardines in tomato sauce with potatoes. Most of the times when I eat sardines (in oil only) it is always as a snack and never as a full meal so it was especially nice consuming it this way.
My preference for sardines is the ones packed simply in oil. I’m not interested in the ones in mustard sauce, Tabasco sauce, Jerk sauce or Curry sauce, yes, you read that right – sardines in jerk sauce and curry sauce. I do not like sardines in tomato sauce either but my mother and cousin have won me over with the Marshall’s sardines. I just need to work out a way to get a constant supply.
Anyway, I know that after reading this week’s column sardines will be eaten. If you’re having it for lunch, don’t worry with any spoon, fork, or knife and fork, use your fingers – mash and mix the potatoes and onions and sauce with a piece of fish with the hot white rice. Don’t forget the pepper sauce or pepper you put to boil in the sauce. A lil achar would give the sardines a wicked flavour. Drooling yet?
Have a great weekend!