When people talk about what their dad taught them, they usually mention how to throw a ball or how their dad taught them how to drive. My dad did that, but I also remember how he taught me to eat sardines. Granted, sardine eating isn’t a skill passed from father to son over the ages. It’s more that he fostered an affinity for them.
He was on the road a lot. After a hard week I would see him sit on the floor with his back propped against the couch. His legs would be stretched out and casually crossed at the ankle. On occasion he would balance an open tin of sardines in his left hand while he deftly speared them with a fork in his right hand.
I was probably six or seven when I grew curious about this ritual. The air was heavy with oily fishiness. He would say, “You want a bite?” It’s as if I was able to participate in something that requires a secret handshake. The only thing that compares is when I would watch my ancient great-uncle George hand roll his cigarettes and light it with a strike anywhere match. He would hold that match out so I could extinguish it with my small lungs.
When my dad was on the road and I had to satisfy my craving, my mom would make me devour them outside. There was a brownish spot in the grass where I poured out my sardine oil once. Apparently sardines are so pungent that they can kill grass.
Years later, I still enjoy my sardines, though I don’t eat them with the veracity I should. I can walk to my cupboard and find a couple of cans of King Oscar double-layered brisling sardines in olive oil. These treasures are around three bucks a can, but brisling sardines are far superior to Beach Cliff big honkin’ sardines in Louisiana Hot Sauce at around seventy-nine cents. I’m not a sardine epicurean as I’ll eat just about any brand, but I do have my preferences.
I still have to eat them outside as it is too much trouble to devour them at the table, slide the empty can in a ziplock bag and bury the remains in the trash. If it’s late at night, convenience trumps all where I would eat sardine sandwiches in bed next to my sleeping bride.
Written in response to the Daily Post’s writing prompt.
CC image courtesy of rockyeda on Flickr.