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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lent and the Sardine Funeral

After years of gathering tidbits to share on this blog, if there is one thing I have learned it is, there are feasts for all seasons and all walks of life. Humans have always celebrated important occasions with a feast whether it be the celebration of a new life or the passing of an old, we seem to find comfort sharing the basic act of praising food or in this case, burying it. Today we celebrate the funeral of the sardine which marks the end of Carnival and the beginning of Lent.

Book of Festivals Dorothy Gladys Spicer, ©1937
Miercoles De Cenizas Entierro De La Sardina

The "Burial of the Sardine" (Entierro de la sardina) is a much celebrated festival in Spain. It is celebrated on Ash Wednesday and is a symbolical burial of the past and the promise of a rebirth. The tradition was the subject of Spanish painter Francisco de Goya in an oil, "El Entierro de la Sardina."

(courtesy of wiki)
El Entierro de la Sardina

The funeral procession for the sardine is a gala event. There are parades, marching bands, costumes and colorful floats. But why oh why celebrate the sardine by burying it?

It seems, there are two different stories as to the origin of the tradition. The truth, apparently, has also been buried in obscurity.

...The first story dates back to the XVII century, when Charles III, King of Spain, who wanted to celebrate the end of the festival with the commoners, ordered sardines and wine to be served at the countryside picnic. The weather that day was hot, very typical at the time of year, and the sardines began to smell foul due to the heat. The people wanted to get rid of the bad smell and realized the only way to achieve that was to bury them. The king consented to this. The people wept at the thought of no longer getting free food and having to begin the observant period of abstinence.

I'm more inclined to summarize that the burying, or in some cases the cremation, of the sardine has more to do with the pagan festivals associated with the coming of spring and the preparation of the planting fields. Fish makes an excellent fertilizer:) (have I ever told you the story about how we use to plant fish bones under the tomato plants in my Father's garden?) However, today, gardening with sardines will have to wait for another day:)

I would much rather memorialize the "silver harvest" as a meal to revel! (sardines are sometimes called the silver harvest because of the way the moon reflects on their iridescent bodies:)

...While debates commonly arise as to the exact origin of the word Sardine, it appears to have first been used in the English language some time in the 1400s. It is believed by some that these fish got their name from the Italian island of Sardinia, along whose coasts they were once found in abundance. Sardines are actually a small and oily fish belonging to the Clupeidae family of Herring. There are different standards in different lands for what officially makes a sardine, but some nations consider anything longer than 6 inches to be a "Pilchard" and not a Sardine...Sardines | The Superfish
Portugese Gebuine Sardine Recipes

Different Countries, Different Fish, One Name

Although they all bear the same name on package labels, there are dozens of different small fish sold as sardines. Sardine producers in Portugal, Spain and France work with what are known as pilchards. These are fat, flavorful fish, usually fitting only 3-5 to a can. The Codex Alimentarius, the international body that oversees labeling laws, requires that the label for any fish other than pilchards that are canned as sardines must state the type of fish inside the tin. On the American East Coast what we used to call "sardines" were actually North Atlantic herring. Pacific sardines are sardinops sagax, and are also in the herring family. Norwegian sardines are Brislings (also known as silds or sprats), a small fish native to the North Sea. The good news is that all of these can be excellent! (Sardine History)
Sardine Recipes

What Are the Benefits of Eating Sardines? Apparently, some believe them to be "health food in a can."

...They are high in omega-3’s, contain virtually no mercury and are loaded with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese as well as a full complement of B vitamins...(The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating; New York Times)
...All sardines are very low in mercury, which is the biggest problem with much seafood. Generally speaking, the bigger the fish — the higher on the oceanic food chain — the more the mercury. Shark, tuna — and yes, salmon too — are all high in mercury. As befitting their name, sardines are small. About the lowest on the food chain, they are also among the fish lowest in mercury...The Sardine Diet
Portugese Sardine Die-cut Recipe Book

I wasn't surprised to discover that some of the best sardines in the world come from the waters of Spain and Portugal. The list at Chow for The Great Sardine Taste-off confirmed my beliefs. I'm sure it hasn't changed much since 2006.

Ready for some recipes? Here's a Sardine Casserole from The Art of Spanish Cooking by Betty Wason ©1963.

Sardines in Casserole

This is, however, a celebration. I think we need some Deep Fried Sardines as found in Tapas; The Food & the Music.

Deep Fried Sardines

I haven't decided what I'm giving up for Lent yet this year but after researching this post, I know for sure I will be digging that humble sardine can out of the cupboard a bit more often this Lenten season. It just seems too good to overlook and Marion and I just happen to adore them on a fresh pieces of Italian bread as is!

The Sardine die-cut booklet featured in today's post was published in Portugal. Unfortunately, I can't make out any more of the information with glasses on and a magnifying glass!

Resources
1. The burial of the sardine in Tossa de Mar
2. 26 Things You Never Knew About Sardines
3. 6 Reasons To Eat More Sardines
4. Yes, you can make sardines at home (pressure cooker)
5. How to Select and Store Sardines (The George Mateljan Foundation)

80 comments:

  1. Interesting post Lousie... Didn't Know about the sardine funeral.. My family loves sardines, we make it pressure cooker in a tomato based sauce.. Thanks for sharing...

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    1. I was reading about preparing sardines in the pressure cooker, Gloria. I'd love to try it one day! Thanks for visiting...

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  2. I didn't know about this sardine history, Louise. Sardines figure in my childhood a bit, though. When going fishing with my father, he always took along a can of sardines to eat during the day. I believe I chose the peanut butter crackers, though.:-) The Lenten season is to be a period of sacrifice, though, and I would join in on burying the sardine.

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    1. I think most of us think of sardines as bait, Nellie but bringing them on a fishing trip is oh so much better!

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  3. It does seem odd to bury the sardine -- I'd think one would resurrect it for the coming fasting season! I've not heard of this -- one of the great things I so love about your blog. Such great info! This post is so much fun -- thanks so much.

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    1. I hesitated on posting this today, John because it is, after all, Wordless Wednesday but, I just found the whole burying of the sardine ritual so fascinating, I just had to share:) I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

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  4. Great info on the Sardines. I never knew much about sardines except they were a fish, I did not like. I am glad you are back from your junket - I missed reading your posts.

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    1. Thanks Geraldine. I'm so glad you enjoyed your visit. I sure did enjoy that Pretzel Bun Breakfast Sandwich of yours, lol...

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  5. Louise, you never cease to amaze! You find the most interesting pieces of information. I have forwarded on your link to a couple of friends. Believe it or not, we were just discussing sardines on Monday, and joked about doing a taste test of different kinds. Now, thanks to the Chow link, we don't have to :) You, my dear, must never stop blogging.

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    1. Well, I'll be Lynn. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall to hear that sardine conversation, lol...I didn't think people thought much about sardines no less actually have a conversation and a taste test about them. Whew! At least I'm not alone:) I'm so glad you enjoyed this post, Lynn. It sure was fun to do!

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  6. Too funny! I love sardines, but the hubby would probably love if I buried them all :)

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    1. Lol Liz!, You're pretty funny too:)

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  7. sardines on plain crackers for us - yummy - as for deep frying them - I grew up doing that with smelt. that too is very yummy :D

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  8. Dear Louise, When I saw the name of your post today, I must say I was intrigued. I had never heard of that story before about the Sardine Funeral. Your information is phenomenal! I enjoy sardines, but I have to say that my parents, just like you and Marion could eat them on Italian bread. My dad loves them more than my mom, but when you open their cupboard they have many cans of them. I remember growing up and taking them to school on Fridays in a sandwich. All my friends would be eating plan old tuna fish but I had sardines. It felt like I was more exotic than my friends. This was a fun and interesting post, thanks for your research. I pray that this Lenten season will be a renewal for all. Blessings this day and this week...Dottie :)

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    1. It was such an interesting story to me also Dottie, I just had to share! We never brought sardines to school when we were kids but we sure did eat them at home. I think my father use to make them with pasta! Thanks for visiting, Dottie...

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  9. I'm not a huge fan of sardines, but they look ok in your post!

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    1. Thanks Yummy and thanks for visiting...

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  10. So much good information. But, why did they bury pork or a sausage as a symbol for the sardine? I have to say that I am not a big fan, but maybe that casserole has converted me. It sounds like it would be delicious on crusty bread. Thanks for the lessons!

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    1. They pretty much used what ever was on hand to symbolize the sardine, depending on the area of the country, Debra.

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  11. Hi Louise , all my family enjoyed your post on sardines , we all are great sardine lovers from way back . Never knew about the 'Sardine' funeral , , ut was good to know . I will try some of the sardine recipes they will be a hit at my house . As my aby boy say , mama , stinky good ;-D . Thanks Louise so much for sharing . :) Nee

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    1. Your whole family read it, Nee? Wow! I really appreciate you sharing with them:) Your little boy is so cute. Now he will know sardines are not only for bait...and "stinky good" to eat too:)

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  12. Hi Lousie,

    I remember eating more sardines than tuna when I was little. Seems like tuna has taken over these days... Sad that sardines has been losing its trend. Sardine funeral??? Yeah? Like planting sardine bones under tomatoes plants? I like to give this idea a try :D

    Zoe

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    1. I was reading an article that said the canning industry was part of the demise for the waning of sardine use, Zoe. So, I too am confused as to why tuna in a can is still more popular. Will need to investigate one day:) Try the bones under the tomato plants you will be amazed!

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  13. Hi, I was very confused ( a common condition) about the sardine funeral when they were supposed to be eating fish and leaving off meat. As I read on I was quite intrigued. I have always loved sardines but always ate them straight out of the can, as you, on bread or a cracker with a little mustard. This post also makes me thing of another love...canned smoked oysters. As my hubby would say,"If you put them on your head, your tongue would lap out your brains" Now that is GOOD! Your posts always bring back fond memories.
    Blessings for you and Marion, Ginger

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    1. so glad you enjoyed this post, Ginger. I was trying to think up a title for hours so it wouldn't be too confusing. Now, for some canned oysters!

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  14. Hi Louise, I'm back after a short break from blogging. Very interesting posting, didn't know there are sardine funeral. It's always great to drop by your blog to learn all the classic and vintage stories, pictures, recipes and some humour. I enjoy reading all your posting.
    We love sardine sandwich and sardine roll.

    Have a wonderful week ahead,regards.

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    1. Hi Amelia! Welcome back! I'm so glad you enjoyed this post. It was such fun to research and yes, it did make me crave a sardine sandwich!

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  15. I eat a lot of sardines during my growing up days, my mom believes they are brain food:P I have no idea where she gets that information lol! So much so, now I rarely eat them! Great write up and I would love to try the sardine tapas!

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    1. It's amazing how mothers just know these things isn't it Jeannie? I think she may be on to something. They say fish is indeed brain food! Sardines, since they are low on the totem pole, do not have as much mercury in them as some other fish do. Try that Tapas! Let us know when you do:)

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  16. Oh, I'll bury them alright.....and give them up for Lent! Hahaha!
    Glad you are back....I think you missed my whole trip to Florida!
    Enjoy your evening.....
    Cheers!
    Linda :o)

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    1. You would, Linda, lol...

      I didn't miss your entire Florida trip. Just the good weather:) Glad your back!

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  17. I rather like the idea of burying a fish that's really a sausage and marching through the streets. I've never been to Spain but I'd love to go one day. Maybe I'll go on Ash Wednesday just for fun.

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    1. You may be on to something, Maureen. Carnival time in Spain looks like a whole lotta fun!

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  18. Interesante historia Louise me encanta la sardina en casa la comemos siempre en entrada es fascinante,abrazos.

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    1. Me alegro mucho de que te haya gustado Rosita.

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  19. I always learn something at your blog! What a cool tradition. I am home with bronchitis and hoping to be back at blogging and visiting soon. Please bring me soup!! haha

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    1. Hope you're feeling better, Tina! I would LOVE to bring soup!

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  20. I will definitely have to try the fish bone trick!

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  21. what funny post Louise, I never Heard before about the Sardine funeral;)
    We have too Miércoles de Ceniza and was funny cause Im by some days on the beach and of course I forget lol
    And hubby told me what we lunch yesterday? I said : oven fish and lettuce salads ah he said! was OK! lol
    Love this post.
    xxxx
    (Yet I dont know nothing about books but we have to wait!

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    1. Days on the beach??? You lucky girl:) Glad you liked the post, Gloria...

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  22. I find sardines a little too salty, but my dearly beloved does like them. (No more, with the cursed sodium restriction...) Another amusing post, but I won't be burying any sardines in my snowy backyard (you were right that we also missed out on Titan - hooray!).

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    1. Perhaps he could eat fresh sardines, Marjie. They are really healthy! I won't be burying any sardines any time soon either. Nice weekend in the forecast though:)

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  23. Hi Louise, oh... never know there is an even on sardine funeral. Sounds interesting and I do learn a lot from this posting of yours. Now I won't be scratching my head if some one happened to tell me about sardine funeral! Talking about sardines, I do love sardines, be it canned or fresh. It's pack with nutrients and no matter how you prepare it, sardine is always yummy... Whenever I ran out of idea what to cook or when there's nothing left for me to whip up a meal, canned sardine is always my saviour! We just love canned sardines! You have a fabulous day ahead, Louise and take care :)

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    1. You are so funny, Ivy. I'm delighted you won't have to scratch your head anymore, lol...

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  24. Such a fun post Louise...as always I learn a lot by reading your posts...thank you!
    I used to eat a lot of fried sardines as a child when living in Brazil, but have not had since I moved to US...
    Oh! I love the title of this post :D
    Have a lovely weekend my dear!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Juliana. I had no idea so many people liked sardines!!!

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  25. Can't say I have any sardine experience at all (I am veg) but I know many people who are more than willing to eat them straight from the tin :P

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    1. Seems like I've "met" a couple of sardines lovers since doing this post, Uru. Thanks for visiting...

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  26. Louise , I'm a ( lasped ) Catholic and I never heard about this Sardine Funeral :D Very informative post ! The fish bone trick sounds interesting . I love sardines , be it fresh or canned though I haven't tried deep-fried yet .

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    1. Doesn't deep fried sardines sound interesting, Anne? Marion wants them that way for he birthday this month!

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  27. Hi Louise,
    This is really an interesting post! I am amazed with all your posts, I have learnt so much interesting things that I never knew about! Now I can never look at a sardine in the usual way! Wow, never knew sardine has it's own place in a festival! Amazing!
    And I've got to try out with the fish bones under the tomato plant.
    I love eating sardines, makes a wonderful sandwich filling.
    Thanks for your lovely post!

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    1. Hi Joyce,

      It makes me so happy to know you enjoyed this post. it was such fun to do also. Try those bones under the tomatoes and let us know what happens:)

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  28. I didn't know about the sardine festival in Spain. How interesting.
    I am a huge sardine fan. I usually buy them in Italy as I find that they ones in Britain have too many bones and they are too fiddly. After a while I lose my patience and appetite if I have to spend ages looking for bones!
    I hope you have a nice weekend Louise! XX

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    1. I read that the sardines from Spain and Portugal are favored by most, Alida. We can get both kinds here also.

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  29. a sardine funeral? sounds funny! i wonder if anyone pray to them after that..LOL! i ate quite a lot of sardines in the can when i was little, now i still do sometimes , reheat, chop some onions and squeeze some limes over it..and eat that with rice! sardine sandwiches were quite popular too during my schooldays! thx for your lovely comments left on my blog always, Louise!

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    1. Hi Lena!
      Believe or not, in my travels, I have come across quite a few sardine "rituals." It seems the good old fashioned Sardine sandwich is still everyone's first choice:) You are more than welcome, Lena...

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  30. I think The Burial of the Sardine is my new favorite holiday. I wish I liked sardines, but alas, I do not.

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    1. I can understand why, Pattie, lol...

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  31. i just found a tin of sardines in my boyfriend's cabinet. he didn't know why he had them and i didn't know how in the world to use them!

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  32. Best post title EVER Louise! Sounds positively literary. I have never been able to get into sardines, though I do believe the health claims. What really made me try (and fail, and try, and fail) was Alton Brown's avocado and sardine sandwich that was supposed to be great for weight loss. Had I not given up I guess it would have worked for me--cause I really couldn't get it down...

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    1. I must say, Inger, an Avocado Sardine sandwich doesn't sound to appealing to me either. I think the best thing about sardines is, they need no "dressing" (except for a bit of olive oil perhaps:) One day, you should try again:)

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  33. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one first hearing of the sardine funeral here. I'm not a fan, so I think I'll stick with pancake suppers or seders on Shrove Tuesday. Besides, I'm pretty sure that if I buried a sardine, Sissy would go dig it up!

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    1. Pancake suppers sound good, Channon. Around here we've been having a lot of fish dinners! Not Sissy??????

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  34. Yes, I've got a couple of cans of smoked sardines in the cupboard, too. I had never heard of this ritual. Fascinating stuff. It's funny about sardines -- I always have to get over a mental block before I eat them, but once I do, I'm always really happy I did!

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    1. That mental block happens to me sometimes, T.W. But once I get past it, Look out!

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  35. I love sardines!! Didn't know they had their own celebration!

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  36. Another interesting post, Louise! I am not a fan of sardines….but my husband enjoys them from time to time. My son-in-law used to share his with my granddaughter when she was maybe 2…it used to gross me out….but I guess healthy! Have a great weekend, Louise!

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    1. So glad you enjoyed it, Kathy. My grandmother fed us both sardines and anchovies when we tiny tots. My sister couldn't stand them, lol...

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  37. Dear Louise, My dad loved these little cans of sardines and so ...I do too.
    He buried the fish bones too under the tomato plants and we always had beautiful tomatoes and veggies in the garden. I guess it really does work..
    Blessings dear. Catherine xo

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    1. Your dad buried the fish bones too, Catherine??? I guess it must have been an Italian thing, lol... And it sure did work!

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  38. Sardines are so tasty and versatile. I love them! A fabulous post, as always.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. I do too, Rosa. I think some cultures use sardines in sauces. I must check. So glad you enjoyed this post:)

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  39. Your recipes look amazing. I use Ramen noodles as a garnish for our sushi salad.

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    1. They make a great garnish, Lady Lilith. Thanks for the reminder:)

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Anon...you just reminded me that I wanted to pin this post. Thanks for that too!!!

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Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise

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