Anchovies have been one of the world’s favorite fish for thousands of years… right up until the fast food pizza industry left its unfortunate mark on them. (If you’ve been traumatized by a bad experience with poor quality tinned anchovies, you are not alone: NPR has dedicated an entire “food therapy” article to helping you overcome your past experience so you can enjoy good quality anchovies).
These tasty little fish are the specialty that built Collioure’s reputation.
You’ve undoubtedly enjoyed them in a Cesar Salad dressing or in a Bagna Cauda fondue… but in Collioure you’ll experience a whole new level of anchovy.
Back in the days when the famous painters, like Matisse, started coming to Collioure, it was not the beach resort you see today. The harbor was full of colorful wooden fishing boats and, it is said, the village smelled of anchovies from as far away as the highway.
The fishing season lasted from May through September. At night, 800 of the men of Collioure would go out on their boats with lights to catch the fish. During the day, the women worked in the packing plants to process their catch.
A century ago there were about 20 packing plants in the village, today only two of the family-owned operations have survived to celebrate their centennial. The best known is “Roque” which dates back to 1870! (Unfortunately, the Mediterranean has been over-fished so the anchovies are now purchased from Atlantic fishermen to be processed here using the traditional methods).
You can visit Roque to see how the anchovies are processed. My favorite style of anchovies are those that are left in sea water for sometime and then aged under a press for three months and stored in olive oil. They make a fabulous Bagna Cauda –which is a great recipe for those who are discovering or REdiscovering anchovies –delicious and easy.
(Collioure is the base for Sojourner Tours French-Spanish Borderland sojourns. Our guests can visit the packing plant during their free-time on the Best Kept Secrets Sojourn or visit it with us to practice French on the French Immersion Sojourn)