There is something beautiful and irresistible when Salt meets Fat. A perfect pairing to stimulate the deep appetite. When done well, there is a warmth, a total engagement of the palate, a consensus between texture and taste.
Think of the Anchovy. Best consumed most simply, on rustic bread, a slash of butter, crowned by the oily jewel. A culturally significant delicacy, once considered peasant food, and now in certain varieties and preparations a stand-alone delicacy. Such as the famous Cantabrian variety, fished exclusively in Spring, from the port of Santoña in Bay of Biscay, on the Atlantic coast of Northern Spain. Yes, size does matter, these larger than usual specimens are particularly prized. They also reflect a meeting of cultures: prepared using a salting process refined by Sicilians who arrived in the area in the late 1800s. Yet the history dates back much further to the days of Garum, a fermented fish condiment found in the cuisines of ancient Greece, Rome, and the Byzantium era. An anchovy sauce believed to be the ancestor of the fermented colatura di alici, still produced in Campania, Italy.
This country’s love affair with the fish has immortalised it around the globe through popular Italian dishes, centred on the more delicately flavoured, smaller and more widely available Sicilian-type anchovies. The bang of Mediterranean cooking; anchovies characterise the combination of fresh fish with the use of salt to preserve perishable foods, long before the luxury of refrigeration. This small forage fish most commonly from the sea (although freshwater varieties do exist around South America), illustrates impeccably how salt and fat are the very essence of savoury, while incarnating the story of how food was produced, stored and consumed in the past….