Every morning I go to get bread. I pick out one small loaf of cifraxiu for me and Ivano. It is thick and crusty and rounded. And I buy one coccoi for my children. It is delicious too - hard crusted and soft crumbed. But they adore it for its sharp points and browned flourishes, because their coccoi, their daily bread, is shaped as three small hens huddled into the same nest.
Around Easter, bakers here work overtime. In Italy, eating without bread is as unfathomable and uncomfortable as eating without plates. And Easter brings its own traditional shapes and specialties. They produce loaves and loaves of Easter coccoi in various attitudes - flying birds and dolls and turtles and wreathes - most centered around a hard-cooked egg. This was the original Sardinian treat for children, gifted in the morning like today’s mass of chocolate eggs.
The Sardinian tradition of decorated breads goes far deeper. Brides receive an ornate wreath of bread covered in miniature bread flowers, all shaped by hand. Town festivals are marked with overwhelming offerings of bread to the patron saint. It is no coincidence, then, that the simplest gift - a small and beautiful loaf of bread - is the treasured present for each child on the morning of the most important day of the most exhilarating season of the year.
Each evening in our house, small hands rejoice at their miniature wonder. Daily bread that is shaped and prepared into a thing of beauty. It isn’t, after all, something for once a year; there can be nothing more special than the daily ritual of nourishment.
"The world didn't have to be beautiful to work," said Mary Oliver, "But it is. What does that mean?"
The next morning I go to get bread.
*Many thanks to Andrea Sais for letting us photograph him at his bakery, Panificio Atzori Sais, in Santadi.