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 9:53 AM EDT
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.

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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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