Sardinia is essentially a slow-paced place. People are calm, they have a certain consciousness of what they are, what they do. Everyday habits resemble little rituals. Going to the market, chit-chating, coffee drinking, cooking, eating, strolling, are not taken lightly, they have importance, they are part of a century old decency, an awareness that this is the real life, it has rules and demands respect. Food is a serious business, one does not mess with ingredients, they deserve to be treated and consumed the right way. Sweets especially are of high significance. They are tasty, yes, but they also are part of the hospitality choreography, they have to be offered, presented, given as gifts and they have to be the right ones for the occasion. They are used as little treats, but also as very special artefacts in weddings, christenings and celebrations in general.
A tough country for ages, Sardinia forged a hard working population of farmers, miners, fishermen, workers, people that had little time for festivities, but when they had them they relished them deeply. Decorations were grand, costumes colourful, food plenty and sweets, especially biscuits very elaborate. The Cuori di Nuoro or Coricheddos in Sardo, are a good example. Made piece by piece, using little knives and scissors they resemble the traditional gold filigree the ladies wear with their beautiful local costumes .
The Cuore, just a heart shaped biscuit in its everyday form, becomes work of art. It comes in countless variations and is almost too much of a shame to eat. It is even used as part of large and painstakingly conducted biscuit installations, especially at weddings.
More humble creations like the Papassinos deriving their name from the beautiful word papassa which means raisin in Sardo, are made with cooked wine, in a long process that leads to their rich taste. They are made for All Saints day and are the typical Christmas delicacy in Sardinia. Tilicas, made with almond paste and honey have the ability to be flexible while they’re moist and depending on the occasion they are formed either in a simple “S” or into floral elaborate shapes. The little shiny Arazadas, also from Nuoro, made with caramelised orange peel, are a sublime mixture of almond and honey and the slight bitterness of the orange. The Gattò, an almond brittle, is deliciously crunchy and rich and is usually served on a lemon leaf to absorb its aroma. Almonds and hazelnuts are also used to make the paste, similar to marzipan, which the ubiquitous Gueffus are made of. Honey, almonds, raisins, wine, nuts, oranges, lemon leaves, a little flour occasionally, are the local ingredients that have been used for centuries.
The little pastries are supposed to be savoured slowly, one at a time, paying attention to the taste, the fragrance, enjoying the moment. What’s more, by not having dairy products in the recipe they are made to last, even beyond the point of consumption, to commemorate events. Particularly the Coricheddos are almost a collectors’ item. Their master makers are respected as if they were jewellery artisans. The little Sardinian ‘dolci’, drucixeddusu in Sardo, have significance, they mean something, they have a certain history.
Text and photos by Manos Chatzikonstantis
Manos is an editorial, travel and food photographer, based in London (UK) and Athens (Greece). He mixes simple everyday narratives of people’s lives, food and creative behaviours with a fine art / contemporary photography touch, capturing details and moods that are often overlooked. His work has been focusing on the Mediterranean area.