Earlier, I wrote on the unusual frangipane-filled pastry called freixepa bought at the Heras patisserie in Gandia. On leaving the shop, I saw another interesting-looking confection, but decided to leave it for another day. And that day came sooner than expected when an errand took us to Gandia the other day. La Delicà, as this typical confection (dolç tipic, in Valenciano) of Gandia is called, comes in a purple box.
On the box is a story in Valenciano:
“Compta la llegenda… que una jove gandiana va morir en caure-li al damunt el pètal d’una flor de gesmil. En estendre’s la noticia per la ciutat ducal, relat de la qual ometia intencionadament el fet que, el pètal que li havia caigut pertanyia a un dels ornaments del rosetó de la Col•legiata de Gandia, començà a gestar-se la llegenda.
La reacció popular en sentir aquesta història pareixia ser unànime, expressant espontàniament en valencià col•loquial “Què delicà!”, que és com es continua sentient en l’actualitat.”
And the Castellano version:
Cuenta la leyenda … que una joven gandiense falleció al haberle caído el pétalo de una flor de jasmín. Al extenderse la noticia por la ciudad ducal, en cuyo relato se omitía intencionadamente el hecho de que el pétalo de la flor que le había caído pertenecía a uno de los ornamentos del rosetón de la Colegiata de Gandia, se empezó a gestar la leyenda.
La reacción popular al oír esta historia parecía ser unánime, expresando espontáneamente en valenciano colloquial “Què delicà!”, que es como se sigue oyendo.”
Here is a rough translation: According to legend, there was a young girl of Gandia who died when a petal of jasmine fell on her. What the ducal city’s officials failed to mention was that the petal of jasmine that had fallen belonged to an ornamental rosette on the Collegiata of Gandia [the local church]. ‘How delicate!’ — was apparently the unanimous and spontaneous reaction of the public on hearing the story. And so one continues to hear [the legend] to this day.
What the connection is with this unfortunate event and legend and this particular confection of Gandia besides their common name, La Delicà, is unclear to me. No doubt I am missing something. What is very clear to me, however, is that this traditional confection of Gandia deserves to be better known, at least as well-known as the hapless damsel after whom it was named.
La Delicà is a sumptuous and rich nut tart, made of two kinds of nuts –- almonds and walnuts, raisins, and scented with lemon and orange. All of these ingredients showcase quality produce from the orchards of this part of Valencia — the region of La Safor. Nearest the crisp crust is a bottom layer of orange conserve, its aromatic syrup surrounding the next layer of chopped walnuts and raisins, the whole then topped with a thick layer of frangipane cream and artisanal marzipan, strewn with sugar and adorned with a copious helping of toasted almond flakes and walnut halves. The marzipan is so unlike the commercially prepared kind which is cloyingly sweet and then doused with synthetic almond essence. The marzipan used in La Delicà is a fine marzipan without any artificial flavouring whatsoever. As mentioned earlier, the tart is extremely rich, so that a sliver is more than enough for me. The crust itself is plain and unsweetened, which is perfect as a foil for the rather extravagant filling. Proof of how exquisite it is — M, who usually dislikes sweetened citrus peel of any kind, did not push aside any of the orange peel, which he usually does for fruit cake and Stollen.
Ever curious about local legends, I delved online and found quite a lot of related material on La Delicà de Gandia, the legend that is, not the sweet. Apparently the phrase ‘la delicada de Gandia’ is often used nowadays rather derogatorily for anyone, female and male alike, too squeamish or finicky. On Youtube there is a poetry reading by Salvador Bolufer, followed by choreography on the theme of the legend.
If the exquisite flavour of the tart is any indication, then the original La Delicà must have been quite an extraordinary young lady to be so commemorated by a legend, still in circulation more than 500 years later.