Meet the artisan-producers of Jovial Linen Couche
I love bringing you one step closer to our artisan producers. If you are baking einkorn bread with my cookbook or the recipes from our website, you may be familiar our linen couche. I recommend utilizing this type of flax proofing cloth to hold the dough after shaping because linen is the only material that will not stick to delicate einkorn dough. You may not have realized that your purchase of the jovial couche is also a tremendous support to a very special couple from the island of Sardegna- Mario and Franca. Yesterday, Rodolfo and I spent the day with them at a Sardinian cultural festival on the “continent”, as the islanders refer to mainland Italy.
Mario and Franca live and work in a small town in the center of Sardegna, far away from the crystal clear water and expensive resorts on the infamous Costa Smeralda coast. The population of their town was 4,500 10 years ago, but it has dropped to 3,000 now, as young people leave the town in search of more opportunity. You wouldn’t think of Italy as a country where people have a hard time earning a living, but globalization and an influx of inexpensive imported merchandise has put locally made products at risk. Smaller communities in rural areas are hit the hardest, as the younger generations let go of the very traditions that make their country so unique.
Franca and Mario love their hometown, and would never dream of leaving. They chose to make a career out of preserving the traditional production of orbace, a wool fabric that is made using an ancient process of washing and weaving wool so that it produces a strong fabric that is resilient and waterproof. It is believed that this material was used to dress Roman soldiers, and it is still used to make capes for local sheep herders. Rodolfo found them by chance a few years ago, and asked if they could weave our linen couche. Every time I reach for my linen at home or at a cooking class, I think of them.
Mario was really excited to meet up with us, and he messaged us a number of times to confirm we would attend the event on Sunday. I had never met him or spoken with him before, so it was quite a joyous encounter. He smiled when I asked him to model his traditional hand-made wool jackets with me, and while we posed for the picture, I could tell he felt shy about putting his arm around me. Just look at his expression on his face! Like all Italians, Mario is inquisitive, observant, and he likes to talk. Many of his comments touched me during the day, especially when he said we were so fortunate to have built such a strong business, while he was not as good at promoting the traditions of his local area.
Italians are normally very courteous and formal, but they love to interact if you have the courage to break the ice. I bumped into three gentlemen wearing traditional clothes, and I had to ask them for a picture. One of them was carrying a bright orange shopping bag, so I asked him to put it aside. After they posed, I told them I would be sharing the photo in America. A few minutes later, one of them tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could take the photo again with another one of their friends. Mario then explained that they were wearing typical Sardinian trowsers, which only have one back pocket. I asked why only one, and he replied – We don’t have much, so we don’t carry much around with us.
Everything typical of Sardegna was represented at the festival. We watched a cheesemaker demonstrate the start of sheep’s milk Pecorino, shepherds sheared baby lambs by hand with traditional scissors, and we tasted a very traditional lamb stew, as well as the celebrated Cannonau wine. Mario also brought a bottle of a sweet white wine that he makes himself for just Rodolfo and I to taste. He said he only produces 1,000 bottles a year, and I was already thinking how special it would be to share some with our guests at our new restaurant in North Stonington. I have never tasted anything so good.
Mario and Franca weave beautiful scarves and shawls from cashmere and cotton, which I fell in love with. I would like to make them available to you at a very affordable price to help Mario, around $125. It would be helpful to gauge interest so I can get an order going. If you are interested, please drop us a quick e-mail to email@example.com. Thank you for understanding that your purchase can make a difference in the lives of some pretty incredible people who you would absolutely love to spend an afternoon with.