`More than Mere Tradition

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More than Mere Tradition

Jan. 19, 2012
Olivarama

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Spain is a coun­try replete with tra­di­tions forged over a long and colour­ful his­tory as the var­i­ous occu­py­ing nations each left their indeli­ble foot­print on its very var­ied geog­ra­phy. Many of these cus­toms, par­tic­u­larly the most unique, often serve to define the essence of those places they rep­re­sent, to the extent that today they would be incom­pre­hen­si­ble with­out them.

This would also appear to form the foun­da­tions for the doc­u­men­tary series, Un país para comérselo, in which the actors Imanol Arias and Juan Echanove visit the most emblem­atic areas of each Span­ish province, high­light­ing their val­ues from a cul­tural and gas­tro­nomic point of view. How­ever, this does not go to say that our coun­try lives in the past. On the con­trary, this land has spent years work­ing hard to project an image of moder­nity to the world, and in many areas it can boast suc­cess. Suf­fice to men­tion the cur­rent prac­tices applied in olive oil pro­duc­tion which are very dif­fer­ent to those observed not so many years ago. In this case, tra­di­tion has given rise to the van­guard and, with it, the biggest qual­i­ta­tive leap in the his­tory of olive oil in Spain.

The province of Jaén, as the main national pro­duc­tion area, has not remained immune to change and more and more pro­fes­sion­als are invest­ing in qual­ity by apply­ing intel­li­gent pro­to­cols and tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion.

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In the ret­ro­spec­tive on this region of Andalu­sia put together by the afore­men­tioned TV show, the olive indus­try was por­trayed just the way we would have dis­cov­ered it in the now-extinct NO-DO. Although it is true that some olive groves do still use wooden sticks to beat the branches of the trees to shake off the fruit, it is also true that the cur­rent har­vest­ing tech­niques are more evolved and that many farm­ers use mod­ern vibra­tor sys­tems to har­vest the olives. This episode doesn’t reflect the real­ity given that the mill cho­sen to illus­trate the extrac­tion process appeared to emu­late the presses which, in the mid­dle of the last cen­tury, oper­ated with out­dated machin­ery in a con­text in which hygiene was con­spic­u­ous for its absence. Unfor­tu­nately, the only signs of progress that man­aged to wrig­gle their way into this episode went no fur­ther than the inter­est­ing archi­tec­ture of a Jaén mill. Full stop.

In short, the pro­gramme let a unique oppor­tu­nity to pro­mote the secrets of olive oil slip by and chose instead to return to the same old clichés as always. Per­haps by doing so it aimed to jus­tify the mis­for­tu­nate con­clu­sion that the peo­ple from Jaen come from a place with few ambi­tions”. A view which, obvi­ously, we don’t share.

Oli­varama arti­cles also appear in Oli­varama mag­a­zine and are not edited by Olive Oil Times.

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