It´s National Sardine Day 2020! And if you don’t know by now, the Portuguese are near enough obsessed with sardines! So much so that the Portuguese on average consume 13 sardines per second, that’s around 11,500 tonnes a year! It’s no surprise though as sardines come in a number of different varieties and are extremely good for your health!
The versatility of sardines is one of the main reasons why they are extremely popular! From grilled with some roasted peppers or tinned in a tomato and chili sauce, there are endless ways to prepare and consume these tiny fish.
Not only are sardines extremely versatile as a food, they are also extremely good for you! One small can of sardines can provide the following amounts of the
recommended daily vitamins and minerals for people aged between 20 and 40!

But why are sardines such a big deal in Lisbon?

Sardines in Portugal all started with Lisbon’s patron saint, Saint Antony. During one of his expeditions he was having trouble converting the people, so he turned to the fish and legend has it the fish listened to his sermon, which he took as a sign of god. Now every year, Lisbon throws a sardine celebration in the Feast of St Antony. On the 12th June there is a procession down Avenida da Liberdade and is filled with colourful floats and costumes, as groups of dancers and musicians make their way through the streets representing their neighbourhoods. At the end, one neighbourhood is chosen as the winner of the “Popular Marches”. That evening from 9pm dancers, music and partygoers begin to fill the historic neighbourhoods, ready to dance, eat grilled sardines and drink wine, sangria and beer! The festivities usually last until sunrise and the day is followed by a public holiday!

How has the sardine became a national icon of Portugal?

The humble sardine has become a staple of the Portuguese trade and diet since Roman times and is widely believed to be “the third marvel of the country” after football and sunlight! Sine around 1850 the practice of using cans to preserve sardines took off in Portugal and within a few decades, Portugal was the top worldwide exporter of canned with sardines being the main bulk of exports, followed by tuna. The peak of the industry was reached in 1925 after World War I had created a huge need for canned, easily transportable foods. By 1950 there were more than 150 canneries throughout Portugal. Since then, sardines have kind of gone out of fashion, particularly during the 1980s. But despite this, the Portuguese sardine industry is still thriving with over 14 high quality canneries still operational in Portugal today. In the city of Lisbon, there is a multitude of sardine shops selling beautifully decorated cans of sardines with dates and pictures which make a great souvenir for people visiting!

If you’re not convinced of the taste of sardines, they can still be enjoyed without actually eating them! Every year, the Lisbon City Hall holds a competition for national and international artists in which they must create an original design for a sardine template. The winning designs are displayed across Lisbon! Check the designs that won the 2015´ competition and enjoy their…look!

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