Two years ago, during his last trip to Lisbon, Val made the following social media post:
“TODAY in Lisbon: An amusement park for canned sardines. (This is not a joke!)
“I came across this unusual shop, ‘O Mundo Fantastico da Sardinha Portuguese,’ which literally means ‘The Fantastic World of Portuguese Sardines.’ It’s located on one of Lisbon’s main squares.
“Apparently, Sardines are an ancient symbol of Lisbon and are associated with one of the city’s beloved Saints. The sardine hype in Lisbon comes alive in June during the Festival of St. Anthony. The Portuguese then eat sardines all month long, some even sponsoring sardine-eating contests with awards for the winners!
“I personally am not a fan of sardines, but I can appreciate these people’s special love of and pride in their locally-produced product. This weird shop could equate to a specialty cheese shop in France or a shop of local-label wine in Italy, only in this case, it’s Portuguese sardines!
“I’m sure I’ll find a way to incorporate this cultural detail into the story I’m currently writing, just to give it the stamp of authenticity.” –Val Karren, Author
Upon returning home, Val opened the cans of sardines he had purchased from this shop and grilled them on our electric grill. The house filled with the smell of fish, not the horrible, fishy smell that generally accompanies sardines in an open can, but a rich, delicious smell of fine white filets. Even Val enjoyed them. In our book, Portugual has the market cornered on sardines!