On Olive Oil and Life in a Room Full of Kids

Olive Oil Times writer and EVOO expert Ylenia Granitto goes back to school.

The kids at Oliocentrica
Nov. 1, 2017
By Ylenia Granitto
The kids at Oliocentrica

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I’ve given some chal­leng­ing speeches in front of experts in the field of olive oil, but last Wednesday after­noon at a new olive oil shop, Oliocentrica I found myself fac­ing the most demand­ing audi­ence of all: Thirteen-year-old kids accom­pa­nied by even younger sib­lings and bud­dies.

I could not say no to an invi­ta­tion from Gisa Di Nicola, who opened Oliocentrica last June with her hus­band Fabrizio Gargano (who is an illus­tra­tor), with an aim to offer high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils and spread olive oil cul­ture through courses and meet­ings.

I was think­ing about how to bring chil­dren closer to olive oil,” Gisa told me. I real­ized that mid­dle school kids in Italy, besides being at a dif­fi­cult age, must also choose which type of senior high school to attend and this may partly affect their future work path. So, why not try an olive oil expe­ri­ence to stim­u­late their think­ing?” Which meant that extra vir­gin olive oil should be at the cen­ter of my talk as an inspi­ra­tional sub­ject for chil­dren more famil­iar than most with EVOO since they live in a pro­duc­tion area — an audi­ence whose atten­tion can be dif­fi­cult to hold.

I started talk­ing about my child­hood among olive trees in Tuscany, the uni­ver­sity, and work. At that time, I was an olive oil taster for pas­sion, then, going back to my roots, a pro­fes­sional evo­lu­tion led me to go deeper into the world of extra vir­gin olive oil and I started to work as a con­sul­tant and writer.

Why is this oil called extra vir­gin?” Alfredo asked. This means that it is very good, that it has been made cor­rectly, and actu­ally the farmer has given the very best of him­self in mak­ing it,” I replied. In this sense, you can see that an olive tree and its oil are always asso­ci­ated with good and beau­ti­ful things,” I added.

It takes ded­i­ca­tion and pas­sion in mak­ing a healthy and tasty prod­uct, which is even bet­ter when nature is respected, as a pro­ducer recently told me. You can feel the extra­or­di­nary energy com­ing from good things when you walk through olive groves,” I said, describ­ing the beauty of olive trees and the mag­nif­i­cence of mon­u­men­tal ones, which are a pre­cious trea­sure to be pre­served.

Playing upon their sta­tus of dig­i­tal natives, I out­lined the new impe­tus intro­duced in recent years by research and new tech­nolo­gies. Facilitated by tech­ni­cal advances and moti­vated by the grow­ing inter­est of peo­ple in good and healthy food, pro­duc­ers have started to exploit the many vari­eties of olive trees grow­ing in our coun­try, which are almost six hun­dred, not to men­tion all those undis­closed,” I pointed out, illus­trat­ing wide­spread and rare cul­ti­vars which give us deli­cious extra vir­gin olive oils. Biodiversity is a resource, just as your own diver­sity is,” I invited them to con­sider this, which got their atten­tion.

You and your friends, with so dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters and atti­tudes, enjoy each other’s com­pany and look good together, and the same thing hap­pens with dif­fer­ent vari­eties, which can be used both alone and together with other vari­eties to cre­ate yummy blends,” I sug­gested sim­ply.

I encour­aged them to think about how dif­fer­ent aro­mas and fla­vors are impor­tant in olive oils like the color shades are fun­da­men­tal to Fabrizio’s sketches of this scene, which he worked on in a cor­ner of the room. In mak­ing extra vir­gin olive oil, care of the details is fun­da­men­tal from the olive grove to the mill, as care for details is impor­tant in mak­ing all the sig­nif­i­cant things in life,” I said.

Furthermore, let us think about how extra vir­gin olive oil, in its sev­eral and dif­fer­ent expres­sions depend­ing on the ter­ri­tory of ori­gin, is at the heart of so dif­fer­ent cul­tures,” I con­sid­ered, explain­ing how inter­na­tional events bring together oils and tasters from dif­fer­ent coun­tries and back­grounds and show­ing how these dif­fer­ences enrich our lives.

So, I intro­duce them to Xie Na, a taster an exporter who orga­nizes events to show how Italian extra vir­gin olive oil can be paired with Chinese cui­sine. I use mono­va­ri­etals and blends which admirably join tra­di­tional food of my coun­try of ori­gin,” she explained. Just to give you one exam­ple, I recently pre­pared an egg and tomato dish with a mono­va­ri­etal Nocellara del Belice from Sicily.” This shows that EVOO can be used not only in the con­text of the Mediterranean diet but also in other dietary pat­terns, thanks to its attrac­tive fla­vors and healthy prop­er­ties.

My mother who is a med­ical doc­tor told me that,” Alessandro agreed, and then some kids started ask­ing ques­tions: Luca, like a real expert, asked me what stage has Italian olive grow­ing reached. Andrea revealed that he will go to sci­en­tific high school, while Matteo will attend agri­cul­tural classes. In any case, I called on them to always fol­low their hearts, because if one advances con­fi­dently in the direc­tion of his (or her) dreams, and endeav­ors to live the life which he has imag­ined, he will meet with a suc­cess unex­pected in com­mon hours,” as one of my favorite writ­ers, Henry David Thoreau, said.

This means that if you do your work with pas­sion you will get great results, like the Villa Pontina by Francesco Le Donne who brought to our gath­er­ing the very first bot­tles of his new Itrana har­vest.

We enjoyed the first expres­sion of a great extra vir­gin olive oil fresh out of the mill and bot­tled a few hours ear­lier while show­ing kids how to taste it. Some of them, like Serena and Arianna, already knew how to do it and did it pretty well, show­ing off the typ­i­cal strip­pa­gio noise of slurp­ing, and try­ing to detect fla­vors and aro­mas before we enjoyed a snack of bruschetta together.

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