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Sardine Collage

Vamos a la playa a comer sardinas!!! Sardines at the beach are a summertime fun in coastal Spain.  We love them just grilled and sprinkled with sea salt and lemon. Traditionally, many beaches have shack-like open air restaurants right at the shore where one can enjoy local wild catch in between swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing. In Southeastern Spain, where my parents are from, sardines are abundant and cheap and the favorite food of locals and tourists. 

Even children learn at an early age to detach the juicy body flesh leaving head and tail in one piece united by their bones. Most will eat the crispy skin as well, and even some of the bones. These shacks limit their menus, mostly to seasonal fish, which makes it easier to fight picky eaters. Nature was wise to create the season of sardines around summer when there are more opportunities to cook them outdoors. Their pungent, strong odor will stay for days in your kitchen. During the winter, these pleasurable summer memories are recalled while opening a can of sardines in olive oil and eating them with bread and other vegetables.

Sardines are an acquired taste, especially if you didn´t grow up eating them. My daughter Sofia would not touch them yet; she is scared of mistakenly eating the tiny bones. She also thinks it is too much work deboning the animal for such little flesh. She grew up in New York eating fish that has no head, tails or bones. It may take her until her adult life to accept sardines. What´s important is that every summer when she is in Spain, she is building these memories associating a good time at the beach with parents, cousins, aunts and uncles devouring sardines with pleasure. Keeping fun family traditions entwined with real healthy food is key for assuring lifelong healthy diets.

What about where you live? What traditions have you followed that associate real food with family traditions and fond memories? How do you and your family connect with seasonal summer food in your hometown or the places you escape to?

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My friend Anita’s kids know what’s cooking in Paris! She planned their trip to include visits to the fantastic open markets of this magical city interspersed with the more typical sights.  Before leaving New York, she read about the famous marché at Ave. President Wilson where hundreds of people, mostly Parisians, prefer to buy their groceries rather than in a supermarket.  But you don’t have to visit a world city, like Paris, to make your destination an opportunity to introduce the foods and flavors of a city or town to your children.  Just make an effort to include local food culture as part of your travel experience, so your kids associate fresh ingredients with the pleasurable experience of cultural discovery. This is key to ensure an open attitude about new and healthy foods for life.

Day in paris collage

Parisians flock to the marché - for lunch!

Parisians break for lunch between 12 to 2 PM.  When we arrived just after 12, many people were already waiting in line for fresh, hand-made Lebanese pizzas with zahatar (aromatic herbs from the Middle East similar to thyme and oregano).  We found hand-made artisanal products and various types of meat and chicken on the grill. In additional to seasonal produce, an array of Artisanal breads of every shape and size were on display, perfect for pairing with a wide variety of cheese from across France.  


Ask the farmer and the regulars for their food and cooking secrets

We let our kids choose the foods they wanted to try. Their favorites were the summer fruits: apricots, figs, and cherries. I could not resist the white asparagus as Anita had never tried them before, and the season was nearly over.  A cute, elderly French woman shared with us her secret to prepare them:  she recommends using only the tips and serve them with a delicious mustard. When you go to the most touristic places or restaurants you meet tourists. The real Paris is here, at the marché. One meets French mothers, old women, workers and executives all mingled with the same purpose, good fresh food.


 The Parisian marchés are not saturated with tourists - yet!  So, take advantage!

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