05 October 2012

. religion, architecture, and dessert in southern Italy .

The most certainty I have on any of these three is that I don’t believe in “the” god. I’m actually not even certain about that, and I’d rather say that I’m not certain about anything, really, except that there may or may not be some sort of god, and that the millions of tons of Greek architecture built in Sicily when there was just a tiny system of pulleys is totally mind-blowing, and that all those desserts from southern Italy are equally as ornate, confusing, and endless just as Catholicism and Italian architecture is.

All roads in those small towns lead to the center, which, most of the time, is a church. This, as an overhead view, is a cobblestone bicycle wheel. Religion is the heart of it all, the social glue to a small community, and peppered in every corner on the way to those religious houses are pastry shops loaded with perfectly piped, folded, and lined desserts.

And each one of those desserts closely resembles the exteriors of those old towns. A soft fold in the white dough in the beginning stages of sfogliatelle ricce calls out the layers of hard rock in the Chiesa Di San Ferdinando, Naples. The round tops of the hobbit-like trulli houses in Alberobello are the rustic, textured Sassanelli cookies. The entrance of the outdoor ceiling of Teatro Massimo in Palermo partners with traditional Pugliese braided almond cookies. The importance of sweets, religion, and ornate stone are so interwoven in everyday life that any one of the three seems empty without the other.

I like the sound of silence echoing in the interior of a massive cathedral. I like the crunch in my head when I take the first bite of a warm sfogliatelle. I like sitting down on an old wooden pew and the tiny squeak is like an explosion. I like the repetitive sound of a rolling pin. I like the clang of pretty church bells. And all of those together can create something as simple and beautiful as layered dough.