November 18, 2012
It’s olive oil season in Sicily!
A few years ago Giuseppe Rosso, an award-winning producer, taught me the proper way to sample oil.
We were at Villa Zottopera, his family’s 18th-century masseria in southern Sicily.
The old estate in Chiaramonte Gulfi has thousands of twisted trees. He handed me a tiny cupful of green liquid flecked with gold.
“Hold it tightly in your hands, and do like this.”
Rosso, a non-stop talker with a twinkle in his eye, rubbed the bottom of the glass back and forth against the palm of his hand, as if preparing a magic potion. “The oil must be at body temperature. Now sniff it deeply, toss it behind your bottom lip, and watch me.”
He drained his glass, then made like a human vacuum cleaner, sucking the oil back through his bottom teeth with a big whoosh. I followed suit.
“Now wait.” He went silent for a moment to let me concentrate.
The oil had a bracing effect, tingling my tongue before trickling down the throat in a fruity-pungent sizzle.
“What do you taste?” Rosso quizzed. “Tell me what you taste.”
“Pepper. Sunshine. Grass. . . . Nature!”
My answer was much too generic for him. Did I taste the profumo of almonds, the piccante of tomato leaves??
Uh, no. But I knew delizioso when I tasted it.
Ogghiu comuni sana ogni duluri, Sicilians say. Plain oil heals every pain.
For more information about Villa Zottopera, please visit me/BaroqueSicily on Facebook.