ORO dell'UMBRIA....OLIVE OIL AND CERAMICS IN DERUTA
Yesterday we checked out an olive oil exhibition that I’d read about on the UMBRIA ONLINE website. We’re not too far from Deruta, and the blurb on the site made it sound interesting:
“The 5th edition of the Oro dell'Umbria competition, which comprises olive oil producers, ceramics and other traditional Umbrian crafts, will run from January 26th to February 4th. Last year's edition of the event attracted no less than 60 olive oil producers. The public is welcome to visit the exhibition that will be organised on February 3rd and 4th at the Centro Espositivo Ex-Maioliche in Via Tiberina.”
Olive oil, ceramics and traditional crafts sounded like an interesting afternoon to us, and even nicer since Deruta’s not too far from us. Suspecting that things wouldn’t start until at least 3 o’clock, maybe even four, we called the phone number listed to confirm. Yep, three o’clock was the starting time, but as we’d later discover, that was still only a general time.
Of course we had no idea where the Centro Expostivo was, but we hoped that we‘d see a poster, a crowd, or maybe even directional signs. We didn’t see anything hopeful as we drove through the lower part of the city, so we decided to drive through the centro.
Although we still didn’t see any signs, we were able to ask some men walking in the centro, and they told us to go down to the main drag, then turn right. Once again we figured that with these directions we’d be able to find the show without much trouble.
There wasn’t a lot of traffic on Saturday afternoon, so we were able to drive slowly. As we approached a new roundabout (these seem to be popping up everywhere lately!!!), we noticed a large building that looked like a possibility. As we drove past……..YES! I could see posters for “Oro dell'Umbria” on the doors!
We’re continually surprised that so many of these events are so localized, and so unadvertised. We really have a hard time finding out what’s going on, but somehow the Italians seem to know just when and where to show up.
As we walked in to the hall it must have been around four o’clock. I’d talked with my daughter, who’d called just after three, and we’d probably talked about thirty minutes. Not surprisingly the hall was all but deserted. Near the door was some olive pressing paraphanalia, some brochures, and a young lady behind a desk.
The young woman, who spoke English, told us that there was a talk beginning in just a few minutes. Although we still didn’t know what to expect, we walked in and started to look at the exhibits.
In dozens of cases were displays of olive oils from all of Umbria combined with various pieces of ceramics from the area. Since Deruta is world famous for ceramics, this seemed like a great way to showcase both the oil and the local crafts.
The oils had been judged, and the winners in various categories were featured in the first few cases. Other cases held oil from all over Umbria….we even found four oils from people in San Venanzo. There were no large, commercial frantoi represented, only individuals, and there was also no oil for sale.
Although I don’t know for sure, I’m guessing that this ‘competition’ was something like a state fair competition where individuals bring their oil to be tasted and judged.
In the back of the hall two long tables were set up. Placemats marked each place to sit, plastic cups, napkins and bottles of water were placed in the center at regular intervals, and plates with apples and paring knives were also waiting. Art and I took seats at the far end of one of the tables just before the lights dimmed and a young woman began telling us about olive oil….everything you ever wanted to know about how olives are grown, harvested and pressed for oil. She told us about the health benefits of olive oil, and then she told us about the proper way to taste olive oil.
While the lecture was going on, another woman came around to ask us to write our name and address, and she also gave us a sheet to help us ‘score’ the oil we were about to taste! I didn’t quite understand the form, but used it to take notes as we sampled seven different oils. The slight acidity of the apple helped to cut the oil in between tastings.
Our leader told us to warm the cup in our hands, and to cover the top with our other hand as we warmed it. This enabled us to get a really good whiff of the oil once it was uncovered.
The first oil didn’t have a strong scent nor a strong taste, but it seemed to be quite heavy. The second oil had a slightly fruity taste. The third oil, my personal favorite, was intensely fragrant and intensely flavored, strong with lots of pepper in both the initial taste and in the finish. The fourth oil was very grassy, and reminded me of a salad. And on and on, until we’d sampled seven oils, all different.
Gourmets, and those more knowledgeable about olive oil would select different oils for different uses I’m sure. I usually use a less expensive oil for frying, and the more expensive oil for drizzling on bruschetta or whatever food I’m serving. We both like a strong, peppery oil, and for me, this works no matter what the dish!