this post is about sardines and I’m going to dedicate it to my friend Deloris because its all her fault. Here I am: supposed to be working on my post about The Book of Harlan by Bernice McFadden, or my post about recent visits to museums and instead I’m writing about…. sardines.
Since September of 2014 Deloris and I have been volunteers with Working in the Schools (WITS) kindergarten program which means that every Tuesday morning during the school year Deloris drives over to collect me and we go to Dulles Elementary School to read one-on-one with four kindergarteners, each. It’s very rewarding, fun, occasionally germy. By this time of year the kids have worn certain storybooks thin – Pete the Cat – by James Dean, for instance – and have come a long way from listening while we read to them. Now they want to do some chatting. They want to know if I have baby sister at home like they do? They want to make sure their new shoes don’t go unnoticed. They want to take over some of the reading of the books.
The child who listened while you did all of the reading back in September is ready to loudly and proudly get through a couple of sentences with confident gusto before being met with some big and unfamiliar words. Rather than break up that good reading flow to accommodate the imposter word, some students just start riffing, improvising. It’s fun to witness, and, [to me] suggests some positive developmental processes going on:
*active collaborative imagination
You don’t have to be a jazz-lover to love witnessing this happen. Instead of focusing on correcting the student, I like to affirm their story-making instinct by exploring their ideas, first. Afterall, isn’t reading a collaboration between writer and reader?
But to return to….
Last week I jumped in Deloris’s car while juggling two warm, eggy, buttery homemade popovers in a sheet of paper towel.
“Want one?” I asked.
“No thanks,” she barely glanced at my food. “I had some fruit and sardines for breakfast.”
“Hm.” was all I could manage. My mouth was full and I was wondering about sardines as breakfast food.
“They’re supposed to be a good source of Omega-3s.” she offered.
“Oh! Mmmhmm. Did you eat them with bread or straight out of the tin?”
“Out of the tin. I ate them with crackers.”
So the very next morning I reached way into the back of my kitchen cupboard behind a can of cannellini beans, two boxes of pasta, some stale panko breadcrumbs, and a jar of capers to locate a package of sardines that I bought several months ago. The expiration date wasn’t until 2017. I turned the package over to read the following boast:
“….sardines provide more calcium and phosphorus than milk, more iron than spinach, more potassium than coconut water and bananas and as much protein as steak. One can….contains 313mg EPA and 688mg DHA Omega 3 and is an ample source of Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and selenium.” (Learn about EPA and DHA by clicking here.)
All of those health benefits made me want to eat some right away! My lip curled involuntarily as I peeled back the lid of the tin and and gazed upon the little dead oily fishes inside. I tried to remember the last time I ate some.
It must have been a summer in the 1970s when my grandmother purchased a large forest-green tent that my dad and uncles pitched in her backyard one weekend. At night the adults took their plates of barbecue, their drinks, their decks of cards, their signifying skills and a radio out into the tent while me and my sisters were banished to the upstairs bedroom in the back of the house. My sisters fell hard to sleep but I lay there fuming in the dark, sure that I had been unfairly excluded from what I imagined was going to be a late night slumber party in the backyard.
After a while I got up and padded furtively down the stairs and into the kitchen where my grandmother was running water from the faucet into a tea kettle.
“What’s the matter?” she inquired but I couldn’t answer her with words because she wasn’t the bad guy: it had been my mother who seemed happy to send us to bed without even bothering to tuck us in.
“Can’t sleep?” asked my grandmother. I shook my head no. Maybe if I stood by the back screen door like a puppy she would know that I wanted to go out.
“Are you hungry?” I wasn’t but I could pretend to have an appetite if it meant having a legitimate excuse not to return to bed.
My grandmother disappeared through a doorway where a small chain that I couldn’t reach turned on the single light bulb that lit-up the pantry to reveal its mustard-colored shelves and cabinets covered with yellowed floral contact paper.
Meanwhile I tried to peer through the screen door into the nighttime backyard to see what the adults were doing. Were they using curse words? Were they eating buttered-pecan ice cream? Were they slow-dancing?
(At that time I was growing increasingly nosy and cunning, investigating the differences between what adults and kids did for “play.”)
“Would you like a sardine sandwich?” asked my grandmother. I nodded my head even though I didn’t know the first thing about sardines.
Today’s sardines aren’t as memorable but I love the little tear that whets the corner of my eye as I chew, remembering how I sat at the table with my grandmother so long ago. How she planted the sandwich on a plate in front of me without cutting it in half – which somehow made it seem less childlike to me; how she prepared a cup of hot tea with milk and sugar for each of us; how she sat and chatted with me as if my conversation was interesting and important.
And I can’t quite remember what happened afterward; only that my hankering to be a part of the tent-party dissipated; that I returned to bed willingly, contentedly.
Do you have any sardine stories? Or do you remember any special one-on-one time you had with an adult when you were a child?
Out of curiosity I searched for books with the word sardine in the title.
Here are two written with children in mind:
Sardines of Love by Zurine Aguirre
Arlene Sardine by Chris Raschka
Have you read any of these? I haven’t.
**Looking for some sardine recipes? Check out this link.