Painting Flavour: Letitia Ann Clark
Letitia Ann Clark is a chef, food writer, painter and illustrator based in Sardinia. Originally from Devon, she’s been based on the West Coast of the Mediterranean Island since 2017, after she honed her skills as a chef in various London favourites of ours such as Moro, Morito and Spring. In her blog she brilliantly chronicles her life in Sardinia and the recipes colouring it, with a true cast of characters and flavours, as she delves deeper into island life.
In 2020 she published Bitter Honey, in which her storytelling, discovery of Sardinian food, accompanied by stunning photography brings to life the island, its beauty and quirkiness. Letitia Clark is also a very accomplished illustrator and painter and her work can be viewed and bought on her site: www.letitiaclark.co.uk
What are your first memories of olive oil?
I remember my grandmother buying it in tiny bottles from the chemist, and then using it in our ears when we had earache or got water in there from swimming. My mum never had it at home so it was only when I started work in my first restaurant in my early twenties that I tried really good olive oil from Liguria. I was instantly addicted. I used to have a little bowl of it next to me during the working day and dunk crusts of bread in it. I will always have a deep love for it.
How did you end up in Sardinia?
I met my ex boyfriend Luca working in a restaurant in London and we were both chefs, both wanted to open something of our own, so we talked about leaving and opening something together. I wanted to get out of London and to have the time and space to do something a bit more creative, so I suggested we moved to Devon and he said we should try Sardinia because the weather was better!
What made you stay?
It’s hard not to fall in love with this place, there is something so captivating about it. Sardinia has a wildness which I love. The coast and the interior are both breath-takingly beautiful and simultaneously so different. I fell in love with Italian culture more generally, and with the language too, and I didn’t want to leave either behind.
There is a big juxtaposition in Sardinian food between seafood & inland food: very fresh, rich and modern the first (bottarga, astice etc) , very simple and traditional the other (sheep, young pig, simple vegetables, dense aromatics). Why do you think this is the case, and how can this be bridged – can it?
It’s interesting how it has worked out like that, because it is a remote island Sardinia has always been invaded, and the culinary influences of the invaders wove their way into the cooking, whereas the indigenous population moved further and further inland and preserved their traditional dishes and their culture of sheep-herding and cheese-making etc.
The writing in your blog in the last few months, in the midst of the pandemic, shows a combination of appreciation of the simple life in Sardinia as well as a certain melancholy. How have you been coping with these months of forced separation from your family?
It has been very hard, very lonely, as I’m sure it has for many people, especially those who live on their own. I have been missing my family and my friends terribly. I hope the writing isn’t too melancholic though! Perhaps more pensive. I think we get scared of talking about loneliness as though it’s an admission of fault, almost, but we all feel it at various points in our lives. I hope that my writing makes people feel good though, rather than melancholic. At least that’s my intention!
Are there similarities between Devon & Sardinia?
To me, yes, lots. A certain wildness which I’m instantly drawn to. Strong culinary traditions, an attachment to the land. Great fish, beautiful coastlines, rolling hills, many sheep.
Do you have any favourite words in Sardinian?
All of the words I learn in Sardo are wonderfully expressive, but Luca’s Nonna Giulia used to affectionately call me Lunghitedda, which has remained my favourite.
If you were to isolate one ingredient that represents Sardinian food, which one would this be
That’s a hard question, there are so many you could pick. Myrtle, Corbezzolo, Semola, Pecorino, Maialetto, Bottarga….. Perhaps I’d pick bottarga, because it is so much a part of the tradition near where I live in Oristano; such an important part of the food culture of the area I have come to know as my home, and also completely delicious.
What are you favourite 3 places on the island?
I love the coastline near me, the walk between Su Pallosu and Putzu Idu. I love Alghero as a city to wander around. I love Bosa too for the colours and the views. But these are just those near me, there is still a lot of the island to explore!
Discover Letitia’s writing, drawing and recipes at www.letitiaclark.co.uk