`In Italy, a Festival for Every Food (Including Olive Oil ) - Olive Oil Times

In Italy, a Festival for Every Food (Including Olive Oil )

Feb. 15, 2011
Laura Rose

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Across the gas­tro­nomic con­glom­er­a­tion of delight known as Italy, food is the holi­est of holies, and cel­e­brated as such with the events known as sagre, which trans­lates lit­er­ally to sacra­ments”. These sacra­ments of food are not rar­efied, eccle­sial affairs, but rather rompous town cel­e­bra­tions akin to a coun­try fair, where local delights like mar­i­nated eel, roasted boar, and truf­fled every­thing replace fried dough and cot­ton candy.

Most sagre revolve around a spe­cific local food item and is cel­e­brated when that ingre­di­ent is har­vested or is at the peak of its sea­son. The ingre­di­ent is then used in mul­ti­ple tri­umphal dishes to revel in the community’s deli­cious bounty. These events offer a great oppor­tu­nity to see rural towns at their down-home peak of excite­ment. You can gen­er­ally count on find­ing some car­ni­val-type games, a peppy old-fash­ioned band, and a good por­tion of the town’s pop­u­la­tion chow­ing down and waltz­ing around the tem­po­rary dance floor or piazza.

Not to be missed, of course, is the food, which is gen­er­ally served in heap­ing por­tions on casual plas­tic plates with a nice carafe of the local wine. What the expe­ri­ence lacks in reg­u­lar restau­rant refine­ment, it more than makes up for with the authen­tic­ity of the food served, and the chance to see the exu­ber­ant con­ge­nial­ity of small town Italian life.

In Lazio, the famous olives of Sabina are being pressed into the first oils of the year now, and with this event comes the sagra to cel­e­brate it. The medieval town of Nerola is famous for the qual­ity of its extra vir­gin olive oil, and for the jovial one-day fete that her­alds the new har­vest every February. Situated on a high moun­tain ledge, the town is cen­tered around the impres­sive Castrum Nerolae and is topped by the impos­ing twelfth cen­tury Castrello Orsini. The tra­di­tion of grow­ing olives and mak­ing olive oil here dates back to even before these ven­er­a­ble won­ders, all the way to Roman times.

At the sagra, the menu is filled with the fresh fla­vor invig­o­rat­ing the local cui­sine: bruschetta with olive paste, pasta and fagi­oli with raw olive oil, and carne alla brace lib­er­ally basted in EVOO. The freshly pressed oil is at its peak, and used to per­fec­tion by this know­ing com­mu­nity who will kindly wel­come you into their cel­e­bra­tion, as long as you like to eat and you like to dance.


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