A friend asked me what the women pictured on the beach in Nazaré were doing.

Sardines are a staple food in Portugal. As I read on one Web page, “When most of us think of sardines, we imagine tiny skinny, bony creatures compressed into a tiny tin can but in Portugal fresh, succulent sardines measure between 9 and 10 inches – the bigger, the fatter, the fresher – the better.”

In the photo, the racks are being used to dry freshly-caught sardines, which the women then grill over charcoal. The smell is one of the things visitors most remember about the country.  My memories of the sardine sellers are of very old women with wizened features, dressed entirely in black, like something out of a Garcia Lorca play. Portugal was an extremely Catholic country back then (as was Spain, of course). It was like stepping back in time.

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