In the end, the crucial fact - the thing that is hard for us to accept - is that sa cordula is made from the innards of the animal. The smooth pliability of the intestines, their low-level sheen, the pungent and earthy smell are wholly different from the taut red muscle that we are so accustomed to. But here in Sardinia, it is customary to prepare your own animal, to choose a young lamb or goat while it still runs in the fields. Its slaughter, skinning and butchering is an integral part of the festive meal. And so the organs, the offal, is part of what you paid for. Their preparation is the most complex part of the day and the resulting dishes are the most particular.
Twice a year, once in spring and once in winter, families gather in outdoor verandas (sa lolla) to cook and eat all day long. The women busy themselves with the direction of the meal and work assiduously on the preparations of various delicious antipasti, homemade ravioli, sauces, desserts. Children run throughout the house and gardens, happily ignored and free to pursue their outdoor amusements. And the men begin to argue over how to butcher the animal.
The braiding of the intestines around the other organs is spectacular and difficult. Once it is finished, sa cordula is also skewered and roasted on its own open fire. And the men relax, the children resume their play, the first drinks are poured, the grass grows, a slight wind blows, the wasps hover over the abandoned space where the butchering was done, the hills sprout their first or last flowers and Easter or Christmas comes and goes once more.
Two videos that introduce the world of sa cordula to the uninitiated: the riotous idiocy of Roman chef, Gabriele Rubini (unfortunately, only in Italian), and the irrepressibly curious Andrew Zimmerman as he eats his way through the island.
Many thanks to the Pirosu family of Santadi for allowing us to take pictures of their daily work.