For the Love of Olive Oil

Today is a very exciting day!  We have our first post from one of our guest bloggers!  I am happy to introduce you to our friend Beth.  I think I can easily say that Beth is one of those friends you just like instantly.  She has a great sense of humor, is always ready to help out a friend and just has a great outlook on life.  She’s an all around great gal who just so happens to know her way around the kitchen.  We’re so happy to have her here on the pages of Remember Wren.  So, take it away Beth!

I can’t sew; I can’t even thread a needle, so when Mary Claire and Jennifer asked me to “guest blog” I laughed so loud I snorted. I do have a passion for cooking though and thankfully they still wanted me to contribute. I am beyond honored. Whether my words or experiences are worthy of being on the pages of Remember Wren they come from the heart which I am sure is where every passion begins……

Last night we went to a wine tasting at a wine shop we frequent. Matter of fact we know the owner very well -maybe too well.  On the table lined up neatly were several wines from Germany, Italy and France. This is not what caught my eye as I approached the table; it was a bottle of olive oil. Not meant to have been lined up with the wine but meant to be paired with the bread that was waiting by patiently in a small basket.  Without hesitation minutes after stepping into the room I said to Michael the owner, “I would like to try that,” pointing to the olive oil. Confused Michael gave me the basket of bread thinking I want to dip the bread in the olive oil, “no Michael I need a spoon, I want to taste test the olive oil”.  “You want to drink this?” he said holding up the bottle of olive oil.  “Well, have it how you would like” he said shaking his head as if to say silly American! He found me a spoon and poured the olive oil for me.   As Michael watched me with a skeptical look, I first smelled the olive oil searching for that beautiful bouquet of freshness.  Then much to Michael’s surprise, I began to sip the olive oil through my teeth as I waited patiently for that slight burn in my throat.  This was the sign of the good stuff.

The taste test takes me back to Italy, Mercatale di Cortona to be precise, where I first learned the art of olive oil tasting and the love it will invoke. Sitting with 11 other adventurous women whom had trekked from all over for a Tuscany cooking class which was taught by my friend Faye Hess.  On Faye’s itinerary for the week was “exclusive olive oil tasting and dinner with Emilio Carlotti at Villa La Macchia”, surely this is a joke – olive oil tasting? I was thrilled that we would be learning about different wines and cheeses but olive oil – was there really a difference? Faye told us that “you couldn’t judge an olive oil by its label or color”, but I was skeptical.

Gathered around a large table we listened as the handsome Emilio Carlotti shared his knowledge and passion of the olive oil that his family had produced for generations. In front of us we each had two shot glasses, one with La Macchia olive oil produced by the Emilios family, and one with a commercial olive oil.  Sitting in this wonderful villa as Emilio instructed us in English with his Italian accent, not to mention the free flowing wine and you became swept into the moment making you forget that you were about to drink oil.

Emilio instructed us to first smell the olive oil.  Did we smell the flower scent? It would remind you of a spring morning after the rain. Then he asked us to taste the oil by sipping it.  A sound my mother would most certainly have come across the dinner table at me for doing. Once the olive oil hit your throat there was a slight burning sensation proving the quality of the oil. Hello lover.

La Macchia is cold pressed, meaning it is the first oil from the olive to be pressed out, typically this process is done in the cooler or winter months. As I am still basking in the loveliness that is La Macchia, Emilio asks us to take the next glass.  I smell glass number two, nothing.  It smells like nothing. Must I taste this? When I do, my mouth is coated with a slick substance that I am certain I will taste for the days to come. My stomach turns slightly and I realize I never want to taste this again or feed it to my family. I notice Emilio didn’t even bother to taste this glass of nothingness.  After we recover from the last olive oil there is an air of giddiness in the room as all twelve ladies chat over the difference.  Some are rubbing the La Macchia oil into their elbows or under their eyes just like we had seen Faye do throughout the week during our cooking lessons. All were pushing away the other stuff. It was not worthy of our attention.

Lesson learned.  There really is a difference in olive oils. The ladies from the cooking class dubbed this one experience as “life changing”. Thus setting the bar for all future encounters with olive oil, and for that matter any other ingredient that goes into a well thought out meal.

Since then I have become selective about the olive oil I use.  I am always searching for that perfect combination of smell and taste. Thus the need to taste the olive oil in Michaels wine shop. My children even know the difference. My friends think I have lost my mind when I talk about my love for olive oil, but I still see the curiosity in their eyes as they listen to my experience. When I talk to one of the other ladies from the class we often reminisce about our love, a bond that will forever surround us. Call me an olive oil snob if you like.  I will wear the title as a badge of honor.  However, I won’t be surprised if at least one person who reads this goes and smells the olive oil in their cupboard.

I will return to Tuscany and Villa La Macchia in May for another cooking class.  You better believe I will stock up on the good stuff for eating with fresh bread or soothing over tired dry hands.

Thanks Beth! Now, off to go smell my olive oil!! How about you?

6 thoughts on “For the Love of Olive Oil

  1. Thank you for being a guest blogger, Beth! You did a fantastic job. Now I’m afraid to taste my EVOO purchased at the commissary. I won’t want to use it anymore. Can you just bring a barrel of the good stuff back from Italy?

  2. HaHaHa…I went and smelled my olive oil before I got through the post or to the line where you said you thought someone would go smell theirs!! But, mine doesn’t smell like flowers, so I will look for some ‘good stuff’ when I am in Stuttgart today. Very good, Beth – sounds like an amazing week you had in Tuscany!!!

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed your blog, Beth. I have met both Faye and the Olive Oil guy when they came to Stuttgart Once a few years ago. I will be making my first trip to Faye’s “school” in June. After having Just gotten back from a week in Puglia and having tasted the oil there, am now questioning my opinion regarding the local oil there…. I found it a bit bitter and it had that back of the throat spicy thing you wrote about… Should have bought some but we had not enough weight allowance. Guess I need to go back…. 🙂

  4. Beth, I love this post! We have some most delicious olive oil from Croatia. We drive around the peninsula for an hour or so to get to the one spot that carries it. And we were are a bit weird about sharing it with others, because the supply is limited. I think I need to bring the bottle and a spoon to the playground for you!
    And by the way, that cooking class sounds fun!

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