Foodie’s Guide to Decoding Italian Olive Oil

Chris Olives
Olive Market
Chris Olives
Olive Market

Hi Everyone!

I am so excited!

But I have to divulge a BIG secret to you about myself.

I have spent a lot of time in Italy and done a lot of cooking and eating. In fact I am quite a foodie over there. I have a nose for the best restaurants and the amazing chefs that I seem to be able to find all over Calabria

And I love to cook. So I would spend mornings in the markets in Italy finding the best and freshest ingredients. I would have Nunzia save me fresh eggs just scooped from underneath an unsuspecting chicken. And I would find the sweetest fruits and tastiest vegetables all ready to be enjoyed.

Market day
Market day

I would gather all of my bootie and come home and cook.

And my dishes were fantastic! In Italy I am a great cook.

So it was a huge mystery to me as to why, when I came home I was a mediocre cook. I still looked for and purchased the best ingredients. I still took care to make things correctly. And don’t get me wrong, the dishes were good, they just weren’t Italian.

Now full disclosure here, I am not Italian by blood, I am in spirit and one thing I do know is great cooking.

So recently I started really looking into something that I knew was missing here and that I could somehow find and incorporate into my dishes to make them truly authentic. .

Beautiful olive tree
Beautiful olive tree

And then I figured it out!

It was the most basic and probably the oldest fresh ingredient in Italian cooking.  It is the one thing that no Italian table is ever without.

What was missing was a really good Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil. That was it! I knew I was onto something!

But as soon as I started looking for true facts on the subject of olives and olive oil, I ran into so many contrary facts, ideas, and opinions that I could not figure any of it out!

Olive Oil Pouring
Olive oil

I knew I had to go to the source to get really good information and I found it in the most unlikely place!

In my travels I stumbled across a book written in 1900 in Spanish called “The Oil of the Olive” By Dr. Alejandro Bizzarri, probably the world’s first real OLIVE NERD.

And I knew I had found it.

So I translated Dr. Bizzarri’s book from start to finish, read it all and culled out the really useful information that would help us in this day and age. (I left out the bits about how many olives were exported from Argentina in 1899. We don’t need that particularly.)

And I was enchanted!

Dr. B's book
Dr. Bizzarri’s book

Dr. Bizzarri covered everything from the cultivation to the harvesting methods to the pressing including intimate details of how to clean the presses, and what to do if your olive oil comes out smelling like animals or tasting like worms. This man was a true nerd and I am quite proud that I found him.

In short, Dr. B gave me everything I needed to pen my olive video and ebook that I now proudly call “Foodie’s Guide to Decoding Italian Olive OiI”.

slowfoodrenaissance.com
Foodies Guide to Decoding Italian Olive Oil

After completing that I had to jump head first into great olive oils so I ordered five of the top ranking Italian olive oils on Amazon.com.

We created several other really fantastic products including a video side by side comparison of the five Italian olive oils we bought. We were amazed at how different each one was and in short, I will NEVER go back to mass produced olive oil again. I have been spoiled for good!

On top of that we created special recipes for each olive oil we tried which was so much fun and way beyond delicious. We also made these available on video and in ebook form.

And, if that were not enough olive fun, I translated and notated Dr. Bizzarri’s book for you as well. Let me tell you, that was time consuming but with the annotations, it is really fun to read and honestly there is nothing that I can think of olive related that is not in that book.

You are going to love it.

Olives through the window
Olives through the window

I also included a couple of surprise bonuses but I will wait until my project is ready to launch before I tell you what they are.

All in all, Pete and I have been in Olive Wonderland for the last several weeks! I can’t wait to release this so you can join us there! I see many olive related happy moments in our future!

Chin-chin and I will see you in the piazza!

 

Interview with an Expat: Can You Move to Italy?

Santa Domenica Talao

 

 

 

Santa Maria Del Cedro
Main church in Santa Maria Del Cedro

Ciao Italophiles!

Who has not dreamed of uprooting their life and starting completely fresh in a foreign land? Many people think and dream of this but how many really do it? How do you move to Italy?

Generally, one thinks about it, maybe researches a bit online and then gives up because between learning the language, learning an entirely new culture and completely undoing one’s life and redoing it elsewhere is just, well, overwhelming.

And one has no model to follow. One simply scrunches up one’s eyes and dives in hoping they can learn fast enough to avoid a major disaster. Or one just doesn’t do anything and regrets it.

Fruit Stand Napoli
Fruit Stand in Napoli

That is why, during my recent jaunt to Calabria, I asked my new neighbor and friend Bonnie Gale Oliver to sit down and let me interview her.

She graciously did and as soon as Pete has edited it to make me look thin, it will be up and available.

In the meantime, some of her tips were so important that I thought I would give you a brief preview.

Piazza Trastevere, Roma
Piazza in Travestevere, Roma

What makes one decide to pull up roots and start all over somewhere else?

In Bonnie’s case it was a love of travel and a love for Italy. For the last several decades she was a nurse and had limited time off. Travel to Europe takes a couple of days each way.  A week off is not enough time to see much of anything.  When you do, it is through a blur of jet lag so that you can barely remember what you did see.

If one really wants to spend a lot of time exploring Europe, it just makes sense to either live somewhere where travel to the rest of Europe is manageable, or to buy a place there.

Bonnie found what Pete and I found, that Calabria is the perfect jumping off point for all of Europe. The airport is a train ride away and all of Europe is a short flight away.

Is living in a medieval Italian hill town a hardship?

In America, when you mention hundred years old houses, people cringe. Pictures come to mind of money pits filled with termites, water damage and other costly nightmares.

Balcony view Santa Domenica Talao
View from our Balcony in Santa Domenica Talao

In our village, the houses are hundreds of years old. Pete and I recently found out that our house was built in 1642 and was part of one of the grand mansions in the village. It took up an entire city block.

There is very  little wood rot because there is very little wood. The massive walls are made of stone and leftover building materials from centuries ago. There is no earthquake damage where we are because the houses in the city center are like a honeycomb of dwellings that lean on each other for support.

During our renovations I asked our contractor about escape routes in case of fire. He looked at me like I was mad.

We don’t have house fires in our village. Everything is stone and brick, Ceilings are held up with metal beams.

Any time we leave our place there, we simply shut of the water and electrical and go. It is the easiest thing in the world.

In Summer the two feet thick walls hold in the cool and in Winter they hold in the heat.

Our village has a butcher, a pharmacy, a doctor, and two little grocery stores. Everything you need for every day life is there.

If you need or want more, there is a huge Conad market down the hill in Scalea that has more than what you would find in a supermarket here in California.

In addition to all the things you would expect in an American supermarket, they have varieties of fresh cheeses, beautiful produce, gluten free selections and a cafe with amazing food to eat in or take out.

Cristo Redentore, Maratea
Cristo Redentore, Maratea, Calabria. Christ the Redeemer of Maratea, at 21 meters high, is the third-tallest statue of Jesus in Europe. The statue was built of pure Carrara marble in 1965 by Bruno Innocenti, a sculptor from Florence.

If that were not enough, we have a bar in the piazza where you can buy a perfectly brewed cappuccino or espresso and a warm,  freshly baked croissant filled with cream or marmalade. Is the afternoons fresh gelato is served at the tables set outside in the shade of the church tower.

On the corner of our village sits a fabulous restaurant where you can watch the sun set over the Mediterranean while enjoying freshly made pasta dishes, oven fired pizzas with fragrant mozzarella di bufala and my favorite, impossibly light and delicious zucchini fritters that make my mouth water just thinking of them.

Lunch in Scalea
Lunch in Scalea, Italy

Is the language a problem?

In southern Italy not everyone speaks English. For that matter not everyone converses in Italian all the time. Many of the older residents in our village speak dialect which is a mix of Greek, French, Spanish and Italian thrown in for color.

That said, most of the younger residents speak pure Italian and recently I have met several young kids who learned English in school. They looked eager to try it out on us. It was nice to converse in either language with the idea that we are helping each other get to the point where conversation will someday flow easily.

In any case, when you need to communicate, there is a huge desire to understand you. Phone apps come out that translate in real time, Italian charades are performed, many times to gales of laughter and in the end, all is well.

In addition, you learn quickly if you open yourself up to it and make an effort.

Bonnies tells me that she and her sister Carolyn are going to be attending the free Italian classes offered to foreign residents. Our other friend Kathryn attended these classes and her Italian is flawless (In my opinion).

Diamante
Diamante

What about the Italian Bureaucracy?

There is no question that certain things in Italy are done a certain way. In our interview, Bonnie tells us about her adventures getting her residency status, registering her car and next she will get her Italian drivers’ license.

The beautiful thing is that many of the neighbors who know all the ins and outs, have given her advice and helped her in each of these endeavors.

Chris and the Loa Archeological site
Chris at the Lao Archeological site

What do you do for fun?

Bonnie and her sister Carolyn want to travel. the train station is just down the hill from our village and from there you can go pretty much anywhere in Italy, or even in Europe.

From where we are, Sicily is a hop and a skip, Reggio Calabria,  a much overlooked destination is half a day away. The ruins at Paestum, one of the most beautifully preserved ancient Greek cities is two hours. Naples is two hours on the train and Rome is five hours.

If you do not want a train ride, our area is studded with little jewel hill towns, each with its own character and charm. Take your camera and good walking shoes and you can discover some of the most beautiful views, stunning churches and picturesque villages. It is a photographer’s dream come true.

A lunch at one of the fabulous restaurants sets you up for another tour of a different glittering hill town. Each town has its rich history and its warm and wonderful people.

I can’t wait for Pete to put the finishing touches on our interview. I loved talking with Bonnie and I love watching it over and over because I get more great information every time.

Please watch for it and when you have seen it, send me a note letting me know what you think.

And, as always, if you want to plan a trip, let me know. I would love to put it together for you.

And if you want more reasons to retire in Calabria, read this blog post. See you there!

Living in Paradise: Why Calabria, Italy is the Perfect Retirement Destination

 

 

 

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