Simple, cheap and tasty, tinned sardinha is a favourite across Portugal, for the poor and the wealthy alike – as a healthy basic, fast food or gourmet cuisine.
The riches of the sea have long sustained the Portuguese, so it’s no wonder the humble sardine has become a bit of an icon around here.
Forget those three flying ducks on the wall at grandma’s place. Here, it’s ceramic sardines up there.
The ubiquitous fish also features in paintings, accessories, homewares and every imaginable type of souvenir.
There are even street art fish (although sardines have a bit of competition here).
Of course, bacalhau (salted cod, right) is another staple – but I’m guessing it missed out on the fishy audition because it’s not quite as sleek as sardines.
Surprisingly, we saw very few fish in the rivers and close to the coast – except mullet slithering all over themselves in the rivers.
Where do you catch the sardines, we ask a local.
Out there, he says pointing way out to sea.
There are a lot out there, he adds with a grin.
Considering tinned sardines are exported to about 70 countries around the world, I believe him.
Later, as we crossed the border into Spain, the words of Douglas Adams were circling in my head:
So long and thanks for all the fish.