Last night I arrived at my new home in Bra, Italy and today I had my first day at my new job at the University of Gastronomic Sciences. It is like a dream come true.
I timed my arrival well because next week the city of Bra is hosting Cheese from September 21-24. There will be many tastings, workshops and a huge cheese market. White tents are already popping up all over the city in preparation for the arrival of cheese makers from the entire world. You can be sure I will be right in the middle of it!
Tomorrow I am leaving for Italy, where I will be teaching and doing research for the University of Gastronomic Sciences for a year. I will be living in Bra, the headquarters for Slow Food. In the next few weeks I hope to embark on my olive oil apprenticeship on the road to becoming an extra virgin olive oil sommelier. I will also be traveling down to Amelia to see Francessco and many old friends. Updates on this year’s harvest will be posted regularly on this blog, along with photos. In November, I will be helping with the olive harvest and I plan on putting our oil into the bottles myself. It doesn’t get much more transparent than that.
Don’t forget that you can preorder 2008 Amelia Oil by downloading an order form on our site. Shortly, we will be able to accept visa and mastercard, hence we will be able to ship to the United States. I will keep you posted.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about food miles and it has been heavy on my consciences for a while. For the past six years I have been a member of Slow Food and I truly believe that eating locally is a good thing from the point of view of taste, environment and economy. Yes, this has led me to a dilemma: I am importing olive oil from Italy. How do I justify this? Good question. I guess my line is that moderation is the best path: I eat local when I can and I try to be aware of food miles. For example, I eat local and seasonal produce that supports nearby farms. This makes up the bulk of my groceries. However, I purchase spices and, of course, olive oil from abroad. Let’s face we just can’t produce olive oil in Canada!
At the same time, there has been a lot of debate lately over the validity of the food miles argument. A recent article in the New York Times by James McWilliams presents the findings of environmental researchers in New Zealand who argue that the environmental cost of local food is not always as low as imported food. What is a shopper to think?
Over the holidays I read Michael Pollen’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and Pollen makes a strong case for eating locally as a protest to the industrial food chain. I agree that change starts with the consumer. In many ways I feel that is what we are doing at Amelia Oil: we are giving our customers a chance to support sustainable, small-scale farming in Italy. With fraud and poor quality rampant in the olive oil industry, it is about time that consumers demand transparency.
After living in central Italy for several years I never really got used to using butter again. What can I say. The health benefits of eating olive oil only confirm my non-local food choice. I also know that Amelia Oil is the best quality and it is produced by people I know and care about.
In September I will be moving back to Italy to teach and do research at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo (picture above), which is associated with Slow Food. This is an amazing place for anyone interested in the history, culture and future of food in the world. Besides teaching an anthropology of food course, I hope to indulge in a little formal learning of my own: I would like to become an olive oil sommelier.
This is something I have been interested in for a few years. As far as I know, there are no courses offered in Canada (surprise, surprise). I looked into a few courses in Italy when I was still living in Umbria but had no idea which were above-board. The problem is there are two serious courses, as far as I can tell. There is a course offered by the Italian Sommelier Association (AIS), whose main focus has traditionally been wine. The other course is offered by the The National Organisation of Olive Oil Tasters (ONAOO), who only specialise in olive oil. Who knew it could be so complicated.
I hope I can find a course that covers the history and culture of olives, as well as the science and art of tasting oil. All I know is there is a big, beautiful world of olives and oil that I want to learn more about.
As some of you know, I am involved in the Slow Food movement here in Vancouver and in Italy. I have been working with Janis and Todd at the Pair Bistro to put together a dinner that reflects local, sustainable and seasonal food. We would like to invite all Slow Food members and non-members to join us at Pair Bistro for this meeting of like minds and taste buds:
Pair Bistro Slow Food Dinner
March 28th, 2007, 7 pm
3763 W.10th Ave. (near Alma)
$40 (members)/ $50 (non-members) per person
+optional wine pairings $25
(tax and gratuity not included)
Pair Bistro truly reflects the Slow Food philosophy by bringing local products and culinary know-how together to be enjoyed in good company. Join Janis and Todd for a special ‘slow’ dinner at their Point Grey neighbourhood bistro. This meal will showcase local food and down to earth cuisine, which will include many small informal courses and amuse bouches. Over the past few seasons, Janis has become increasingly involved in the UBC Farm. She would like to take this opportunity to share with you the wonderful activities going on at the farm, which has a strong commitment to sustainable food production. In keeping with the UBC Farm values, the menu will be chosen based on fresh, seasonal, local produce and meats. This culinary adventure will be accompanied by carefully selected BC wine pairings. We would like this to be an informal evening where you can meet new people who are enthusiastic to learn more about local food, enjoy simple pleasures and take time to eat slowly with friends.
Reservations and deposit (a credit card number will do) must be made before March 26th through Janis at the Pair Bistro (tel. 604-224-7211 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org). Book early because there are only 34 seats available in this cozy restaurant and no walk-ins will be accepted. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer a vegetarian option for this meal.
For more information on the UBC Farm, visit: http://www.landfood.ubc.ca/ubcfarm/
Happy new year!
I couldn’t help but comment on this new expression that is supposedly going to be included in new dictionaries. What is going on with our language?
Evoo: it sounds like voodoo but it is just the latest Rachael Ray-ism. Ray, the ubiquitous TV ‘chef’, says that it just took her too long to say extra virgin olive oil over and over on her show, so she came up with this expression. Slow down, Rachael! I know we can’t always take the time to cook an elaborate meal that takes more than 30-minutes but slowing down is generally good. It gives you time to stop and smell the evoo before you toss it into the pan.