While shopping with my wife today, I came across a delicacy I have not sampled in quite a few years: canned sardines. I especially like the variety that is smothered in mustard sauce, which is a taste I acquired at my grandparents' house.
My grandmother, ever sensible, never much cared for sardines, though my grandfather used to take them in his lunch at his job as a tool-and-die maker outside of Detroit. Though I was somewhat picky as a young eater, I thoroughly enjoyed opening tins of sardines, using Ritz crackers to mop up the liquefied mustard.
One of the features of sardines that I always liked are the crunchy bones of the cooked fish, which - unlike the skeletons of larger aquatic creatures - can be consumed whole. I was surprised when I became older and learned that the bones of most types of fish are anything but edible.
I liked to take tins of sardines in the backyard of my grandparents' house and pretend they were camping rations. A sheet stretched across two clotheslines served as my tent, and my grandparents' cats would saunter out in search of the fishy aroma that wafted across the half-acre property.
On a recent trip to visit my grandparents, who are now in their early nineties, I had to open the cupboard next to the sink and see if there were still cans of sardines there. Sure enough, there were a half-dozen cans of both mustard and oil sardines, and they were the brand I learned to love as a child: Bulldog Sardines. I grabbed a fork and a can and took a walk in the backyard, which seemed much smaller than when I was a child.
But the sardines tasted as delicious as ever.