We all used the same method for eating peppers. We picked them up by the stem, bit off the pepper, and, encouraged by Agustin, threw the stem into the garden—a mulch operation, in a manner of speaking. But just about everybody on the patio had a different method of eating sardines, plus a persuasive rap about why it was the best method available. Everyone began by peeling off the skin, in quick strokes meant to avoid burnt fingers, and everyone put the sardine on a piece of coarse white bread. Then came the division in tactics: Should you just put the sardine on the bread and eat around the bone, flipping the bread over halfway through the sardine to allow the dark sardine residue to soak into both sides equally? Should you remove the bone, put the sardine on the bread in lumps, and add roasted peppers on top? Or how about pimientos de Padrón on top instead of roasted peppers? Eager to be a good guest, I tried every method at least once. Then I said quietly to Alice that a family that has serious discussions about how best to consume sardines is my sort of family.

Calvin Trillin in a 2005 Gourmet article on his favorite Spanish delicacy.

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Photo: Jessica Spengler