From the old port town of L’Escala, Spain, up the Costa Brava to the Côte Vermeille in southernmost France, this 100–kilometre stretch of shoreline is where the small, oily anchovy has been fished, salted, cured and preserved since the Greeks colonized the region some 2,600 years ago. Walk into any restaurant and you’ll find them marinated in olive oil, salted or pickled as boquerónes: Welcome to anchovy heaven.
Popularized in the early aughts by Catalan chef Ferran Adrià at El Bulli, Spanish anchovies – plump and meaty, unlike the overly salty pizza toppers North Americans were accustomed to – are still in relentless demand. But all that hype coincides with, and has contributed to, declining stocks in the Mediterranean.
Photographer Xavier Tera captured the region’s love affair with the fish – a relationship that defines its economy, culture and cuisine – meeting the fishermen, salters and cooks for whom the anchovy is a livelihood, and tasting precious local delicacies like suquet, a traditional Catalan fish stew.