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Food Studies Program and Olive Oil

Everyone is familiar with the image of a connoisseur pushing wine around in his or her mouth and describing the quality and the “notes” of this and that in it. Umbra Institute students learned to do the same last week during a workshop dedicated to Umbria’s “liquid gold.” The workshop, part of Umbra’s Food Studies Program, was led by Maurizio Cozzi, a local food expert.

Maurizio first talked about the history of olive oil, and how in the past the farmers were more interested in producing more oil, not better oil.

“Don’t think that everything in the past was better. When I asked my father how the oil was, he would reply, ‘Good. 20 liters per 100kg.'” It was quantity, not quality that a poor farmer looked for. Nowadays excellent quality olive oil is available to everyone, but Maurizio explained that you need to know how to find it.

“Price and place of origin are the signals we most often look for,” he said. “But excellent olive oil can be had for €4-5, and awful oils are made in Tuscany.” Maurizio showed the assembled students how to suck just a little bit of oil into their mouths and wait for the burn to die down. “See, you don’t need years of experience, you’re ready to find good oil tomorrow,” he said.

The workshop is in a series that acquaint students with Italian food culture. The next workshop is about cheese. 

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