“It is the sardine that has plugged the port of Marseille”
is a French popular expression dating from the eighteenth century. In fact, the phrase is based on a true story, but a typographic shell made it a joke.
In 1779, Viscount Barras, who had been captured by the British in 1778, was released under a prisoner exchange agreement and repatriated on a ship chartered specifically for the exchange of prisoners, enjoying a status of protected according to the laws of war of the time. The boat on which he embarked was named Sartine, with a “t” and not a “d”. On May 19, 1780, the British liner intercepted the Sartine and, because of a misunderstanding, opened fire on him, killing his captain and two crewmen. The situation was clarified after the English ship had sent a boat aboard the Sartine to verify the status, the latter continued on its way to Marseille. At the entrance to the port, a navigational error sent him on rocks and he finally sank in the channel of the entrance of the Vieux-Port of Marseille which prevented for a while access and exit to any other vessel.
In the Mediterranean, it is the second of the small pelagics most fished after anchovy. Its nutritional qualities are inversely proportional to its price. The sardine is full of vitamins: rich in Omega 3, vitamin B3 and B6 and phosphorus, and not because it is in a box, but also full of iron. This ‘booster’ fish is one of the most affordable fish stocks on the seaboard. This popular character often confines it to the radius of easy cooking. However, the sardine lends itself to the game of the simplest preparations as the most elaborate gastronomic dishes. In Provence, sardines usually finish on embers.
The sardinades of Martigues, Port of Bouc or the Old Port call their gourmet aroma in hot weather. While some people eat them in donuts, others prefer them stuffed. The nets get up very easily but the chipping remains tedious. Once cleaned, they can be marinated in a bath of olive oil with Provençal herbs a few hours before searing minute. Strong and naturally salty, the sardine reveals itself then a fish with the character of an astonishing tenderness which one sees badly asphyxiating a port …