I don’t know what it is about small fish that is so appealing to me.
I remember being in Italy as a child, and looking on in horror as my parents dug into platefuls of tiny fried fish, uncleaned and with heads intact! (Why this was more objectionable to my 11-year-old sensibilities than the squid tentacles I was gobbling with wild abandon that same trip I’ll never know.) Fast forward a quarter century of so, and I can’t get enough of the small fry.
I buy teeny, tiny “ice fish” — no longer than a nickel and pale white — at the Japanese market, coat them in a light tempura batter and make fish fries. I buy smelt or other little fish, and recreate the fritto misto that traumatized me as a child in Italy. I purchase silvery sardines to pickle or throw on the grill. I can’t remember when it all changed, perhaps it was the climbing-a-mountain/crossing-a-new-frontier aspect it. But whenever and however, I became a devotee of diminutive dabs. More