Yes, I swiped that title from the very talented writer and eater, Brett, at (duh!) In Praise of Sardines.
Cranky-husband-and-co-cook and I asked our butcher/fishmonger, Bryan, if he could get us any fresh sardines, on special order, since he doesn't usually carry them in the Corte Madera store.
No, sadly, he said, since the minimum order is five pounds, and two merely hungry adults don't need five pounds.
Then, he thought — what if he ganged up orders from people who like sardines, and we could split the spoils? (And, boy, is "spoils" not really a good word here.)
About three days later, he phoned us to say we could come claim our catch.
"They're really fresh," he said. "They haven't been out of the water for very long."
Ooh. They were really fresh.
I've probably NEVER had a fresher fish I didn't catch myself (or, with credit to Cranky, Himself — and he can catch fish).
Here's the thing. The sardines — we grilled them briefly over briquettes flavored with soaked alder chips — were SWEET. No need for a squirt of lemon, no such thing as catchup or tartar sauce (not that I'd ever).
We toasted thinly sliced ciabatta (and thank you, Jack in the Box, for hijacking that name). Grilled the deboned, butterflied fish over the coals in a fish basket, so they wouldn't fall through the bars. Smeared the toast with roasted garlic. Slapped on the fish. Showered the plank with chopped Italian parsley. Oh, there may have been a little salt and dried chile flakes.
But. SWEET. (Apologies for the caps, and the repetition.)
My only discovery, besides the fact that super-fresh fish is heavenly (wait, did I not know this? I knew this — I just don't usually get it this fresh), is that chopped really fresh Italian parsley is magic on board.
I have only one other food memory that is as vivid as this, and it's from almost 30 years ago: An onion and tomato salad in Yugoslavia.
And yesterday, I figured out why it's such a standout memory. The food was astonishingly fresh.
That's what tastes good.