Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Photo credit: GoodEggs.com
Monterey Sardine Story: A Recipe by Nepenthe

Though a sardine sandwich might not be the most obvious choice for lunch these days, the local history of sardines on California’s Central Coast may inspire you to create something delicious and satisfying with this oily, little fish.

Sardine sandwiches were once a popular menu item in the 70s, at the famed Nepenthe, just north on Highway 1. John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row” captured the human stories of the Monterey canning industry, a multi-cultural manufacturing business which started in 1902 and expanded during World Wars I and II. In 1968, just six years after the founding of Esalen, the upscale Sardine Factory Restaurant opened on Cannery Row, officially starting Restaurant Row as we know it today. 

Label from the Portola brand sardine can

According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, sardines stay together as a way of life, moving together like synchronized swimmers as one in a single school. 

Honoring Esalen’s place in and around the Pacific, we resurrect this recipe from the cookbook My Nepenthe, Bohemian Tales of Food, Family, and Big Sur

Pair these marinated sardines with fresh, crusty grilled bread or a leafy, fresh green salad. And yes, if you want, lay them on a baguette with lettuce, sprouts, and a little aioli. Then, find yourself a nice view of the water. 

Nepenthe’s Marinated Fresh Monterey Sardines

 Prep time 5 minutes (marinated, 2 hours minimum)


Makes 1-2 servings

  • 4 to 6 fresh sardines, cleaned and filleted
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 or 4 slices lemon and/or orange
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or mint
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon good-quality red wine vinegar, or juice of 1 lemon


  1. Place the sardines in a nonreactive shallow dish with the garlic and lemon slices.
  2. Stem the thyme and scatter over the fish with the parsley.
  3. Cover with the oil.
  4. Grind some fresh pepper over the top and drizzle with the vinegar.
  5. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or up to one day, occasionally turning the sardines over so that they marinate evenly.

Nepenthe shares a few favorite recipes on their website.

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.

Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?


Esalen Team