February 2014

D.H. Lawrence explores a market in Sardinia in the 1920’s

Found tucked away in Topography in the London Library, a young D.H. Lawrence writes of the market in Cagliari in Sea and Sardinia (Secker 1923)

“It was Friday: people seemed to be bustling in from the country with huge baskets…Thereafter we follow Madame going marketing…followed by a small boy supporting one of these huge grass-woven baskets on his head, piled with bread, eggs, vegetables, a chicken and so forth…and find ourselves in the vast market house, and it fairly glows with eggs: eggs in these great round dish-baskets of golden grass: but eggs in piles, in mounds, in heaps, a Sierra Nevada of eggs, glowing warm white.  How they glow!  I have never noticed it before. But they give off a warm, pearly effulgence into the air, almost a warmth.  A pearly-gold heat seems to come out of them. Myriads of eggs, glowing avenues of eggs.”

“This is the meat and poultry and bread market. There are stalls of new, various-shaped bread, brown and bright: there are tiny stalls of marvellous native cakes, which I want to taste, there is a great deal of meat and kid: and there are stalls of cheese, all cheeses, all shapes, all whitenesses, all the cream-colours, on into daffodil yellow. Goat cheese, sheep’s cheese, Swiss cheese, Parmigiano, stracchino, caciocavallo, torolone, how many cheeses I don’t know the names of!  …And there is lovely ham…there is a little fresh butter too…There are splendid piles of salted black olives, and huge bowls of green salted olives. There are chickens and ducks and wild-fowl; there is mortadella, the enormous Bologna sausage, thick as a church pillar…a wonderful abundance of food, glowing and shining.”

sardinia illustration“We…saw more baskets emerging from a broad flight of stone stairs, enclosed, so up we went – and found ourselves in the vegetable market. Peasant women, sometimes barefoot, sat in their tight little odices and voluminous, coloured skirts behind the piles of vegetables, and never have I seen a lovelier show.  The intense deep green of spinach seemed to predominate, and out of that came the monuments of curd-white and black-purple cauliflowers: but marvellous cauliflowers, like a flower show, the purple ones intense as great bunches of violets. From this green, white, and purple massing struck out the vivid rose-scarlet and blue crimson of radishes, large radishes like little turnips in piles.  Then the long slim, grey-purple buds of artichokes, and dangling clusters of dates, and piles of sugar-dusty white figs and sombre-looking black figs, and bright burnt figs: basketfuls and basketfuls of figs.

A few baskets of almonds, and many huge walnuts. Basket-pans of native raisins. Scarlet peppers like trumpets: magnificent fennels, so white and big and succulent: baskets of new potatoes: scly kohlrabi: wild asparagus in bunches, yellow-budding sparacelli: big, clean-fleshed carrots; feathery salads with white hearts; long, brown-purple onions and then, of course, pyramids of big oranges, pyramids of pale apples, and baskets of brilliant shiny mandarini, the little tangerine oranges with their green-black leaves.  The green and vivid-coloured world of fruit-gleams I have never seen in such splendour as under the market-roof in Cagliari: so raw and gorgeous.”