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November 21, 2012 at 10:37 pm #605657
Some of you cats might recall that our homeboy 2 Much Whine is kickin’ it in Italia right now. Since 2 Much is never enough, I’m starting a topic to get this guy talking about his experiences and maybe posting some photos.
Yo 2! You out there?
Talk to us, baby. Talk to us.November 21, 2012 at 11:15 pm #778035November 21, 2012 at 11:50 pm #778036
Why thank you Davide (pronounced Dah-vee-day in Italian), I didn’t know you cared. I am currently enjoying an assignment in Puglia, Italy. I’m also working with at least a couple other West Seattle families.
Puglia is an amazing and awesome place (see other thread about overuse of amazing and awesome). But in this case it is true. The region is truly awe inspiring and on several occasions I have had to pinch myself as a reminder that I am actually an inhabitant rather than merely a visitor. Much like West Seattle I’ll never be considered a local until I’ve got a couple generations of family pushing down roots there.
This is our second opportunity to live in Italy so it is a bit of a homecoming of sorts.
I will be happy to share a photo here and there of local sights, festivals and meals and I’ll give a little insight into what makes living in Italy wonderful as well as what makes it a pain in the culo. That is if anyone cares. I’ll just keep adding a running dialogue to this thread and will attach a pic or two after I get pointers from Dahveeday.November 22, 2012 at 12:00 am #778037November 22, 2012 at 12:00 am #778038November 22, 2012 at 2:41 am #778039November 22, 2012 at 11:37 am #778040
Seeing the map reminds me of all the cool little towns here. Although we’re currently experiencing Northwest Washington-like weather, it’s typically much warmer and far more humid here. I’ll try to do a little city-by-city recap of some of the places on the map. To put things in perspective, size-wise, I typically fly into Rome and drive from there to Brindisi. It’s about a 3 hour drive from Rome to Foggia and another 3 from Foggia to Brindisi.
The area of the map identified as Trulli Country meant nothing to me until I visited there. Trulli is plural for trullo. A trullo is a small house with a stone domed roof. Very unlike any dwellings I’ve seen anywhere else. They are dotted around the countryside but are concentrated in the town of Alberobello. There are often symbols painted on the roof. The story goes that once a year the taxman would come from Naples. If taxes on an inhabited dwelling had not been paid there were serious consequences. Before the taxman arrived they would pull the capstone from the top of the roof and let it collapse so it would look like rubble. After he left they’d rebuild and be safe from taxes for another year. Not sure if the story is true but that’s what I heard.November 22, 2012 at 5:37 pm #778041November 22, 2012 at 6:18 pm #778042November 22, 2012 at 6:20 pm #778043November 22, 2012 at 7:26 pm #778044
My mom (gone 13 years) loved Italy. It traced back to an Italian boyfriend between her American and French husbands, and her interest carried on far past the end of the dalliance.
I read to her from Under the Tuscan Sun after she lost consciousness for the last time before she died in a now-gone Bellevue hospice. (It is noted that the dying can still hear. Sense of smell persists too; I brought her a red rose from our garden that day.)
She went to Italy once on a grand self-guided tour and even learned Italian ahead of time. Will continue watching 2MW’s dispatches with interest. – TRNovember 23, 2012 at 5:50 am #778045
I can almost breathe in the Italian air as i read.
please.. can i have more?November 27, 2012 at 8:03 am #778046November 27, 2012 at 3:05 pm #778047
Tracy, your story about your mother’s passing really touched me. The last moments of life should be just as you described – sensory and beautiful.
Every woman should have an Italian boyfriend once in her life…;)November 27, 2012 at 6:35 pm #778048
Another dispatch from our Italian correspondent:
Southern Italy is known for its ancient olive orchards. The landscape here is dotted with vast areas of symmetrically spaced trees.
Production of olive oil was instrumental in bringing wealth to the region in the days when olive oil was used to fuel oil lamps throughout Europe. The city of Lecce, for example, has several cathedrals built with olive oil money. These buildings, along other public architecture, were originally used as a display of local wealth and power.
November is olive oil production time – the olives are at their peak of ripeness and the area is filled with people in the olive groves and small three-wheelers putting down the freeway on their way to market or to the factory where the olives are pressed.
Several years ago I had the opportunity to meet a local olive guy named Vincenzo Lucarella, and we’ve been good friends ever since. Since 1889, his family has owned L’Acropoli Di Puglia – an olive oil production facility located in the beautiful town of Martina Franca – and Vincenzo is the current owner/manager of the business.
Olives are brought to the factory and dumped into a bin where a conveyor feeds them into a machine that rotates large stone wheels that turn the olives, pits, stems and leaves (about 10% leaves and stems) into dark, thick paste.
After the olives are turned into paste they are layered onto nylon disks and placed in a hydraulic press to extract the oil.
More to follow. . . . .November 27, 2012 at 7:38 pm #778049
[continued from above]
After the oil is extracted through the hydraulic press it is placed in a centrifuge to separate the particulate matter from the oil. This helps clarify the oil and increases the temperature at which it burns during cooking (although it’s not really ready to use for cooking until it is filtered after aging).
Following the centrifuge, the oil is ready to be aged. For this, it is stored in ceramic-lined cisterns in the ground from 6 months to 3 years, depending on the style of product being produced. For example, mosto, which is used for drizzling over salads and never used for cooking, is bottled directly from the cistern after 6 months to a year. It is very green in color, is somewhat cloudy and has quite a noticeable taste of olives and a bit of a bite of black pepper in the back of the throat as it goes down.
As the oil ages it becomes more and more refined. The color changes from green to gold, and after filtering through cotton up to 20 times it has a higher level of clarity. The aged and filtered oil is better for cooking and for using on fish or foods with a very subtle flavor that mustn’t be masked or overpowered by the flavor of the oil.
My favorite part of the factory visit is when Vincenzo dips a pitcher into the cistern, pulls out a couple liters and pours it back in and allows guests to put their face into the pitcher. One whiff and your whole head is filled with the pungent aroma of olives. It is really quite incredible.
Vincenzo is always very careful around the cisterns. Since people are mostly water and water is heavier than oil, swimming is not an option if one falls in – sinking immediately and dying an agonizing death is.
I asked about the “meat hooks” hanging from the ceiling of this old building. Vincenzo told me that contrary to my belief that tourists were hung from them and aged in a back room like a scene from “Hostel,” they were actually used to drag the bottom of the cisterns to retrieve jugs and other utensils that occasionally fell in in times gone by.
So what makes olive oil Extra Virgin Olive Oil? (Anyone?)
Hint: It’s not that it’s the first time the olives have been pressed. (That’s called “first pressed”).
–No, it’s the low acid content that makes EVOO. Olives that are picked from the trees and not allowed to sit on the ground have less acid than those that fall naturally and hang out on the ground for a while. So you see, EVOO actually has more to do with the handling and harvesting of the olives, and the quality of the product produced by them, than it does with how many times they’ve been pressed.
Another common term, “cold pressed,” means that the olives have been squeezed slowly in a special hydraulic press, so they will not be exposed to the oil-damaging heat of conventional presses. Also, with cold pressing, there has been no steam applied to extract additional oil from the paste.
Beautiful olive oil, made by a friend, is one of many things that has brought me back to this part of the world, time and time again.November 27, 2012 at 11:49 pm #778050November 28, 2012 at 1:52 am #778051
I’d like to know what they do with the paste after the oil is all out? Sounds like it would make good compost.November 28, 2012 at 9:14 am #778052
Good question KatherineL. The paste is no longer a paste after pressing it is more like a hard, thin disc of organic matter. It’s either used as compost as you suggested or it is often added to natural beauty products (facial scrubs and the like).November 28, 2012 at 3:15 pm #778053December 19, 2012 at 4:16 pm #778054
Anyone interested in another installment? Perhaps Christmas Markets in Germany?December 19, 2012 at 4:43 pm #778055
Oh yes, by all means. Please keep reminding us soggy West Seattlites about how much fun you’re having drinking the wine and squeezing all the olives over there in EUROPE!!!December 19, 2012 at 4:49 pm #778056
LOL DBP .. i don’t think those christmas markets are so warm and sunny right now either…
but yes, i would love to hear about them.
i have to say, we are spoiled her in the Pacific Northwest..
our Saturday markets and Pike Place Market made it really difficult for me to be impressed with the German open air markets…
except.. for the butchers. OMG.. the butchers.
and of course the obligatory beer garden…
which are more family social gathering spots than german oompah…December 19, 2012 at 5:25 pm #778057
Not sure where Job was, but I miss the European Christmas Markets. The smell of fresh baked pretzels, spiced cookies, regional favorites, music and the of course the warmth that comes from sipping steaming hot Gluhwein while strolling the market. Mmmmm…
Please do share with us!December 19, 2012 at 8:45 pm #778058
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