What is so special in the city of Milan to house the Olio Officina Food Festival? This is a relevant question, since Milan is a city without olive trees or presses, mainly devoted to business. However, the first edition of the Olio Officina Food Festival (link esterno), an idea of the authoritative oleologist Luigi Caricato, will be held there on the 28th and 29th of January 2012, with the participation of the master chef Gualtiero Marchesi.
The festival will be held at the Palazzo dei Giureconsulti, few meters apart from the world famous Duomo of Milan, an will be occasion for thinking, learning and amusement. The extra virgin olive oils will be analyzed in great detail and studied in relation with its raw materials. As for the relationship between oil and food, the interpretation is still open. It will be important to understand the evolution of the role of oil in cuisine. When crude or cooked, it never is the same kind of fat. When olive oil meets other raw materials it changes its identity. It is therefore necessary to rethink the selection and marketing criteria for oil. It is no longer conceivable to keep consuming the oil as we have done until now. Everything must be revisited in the perspective of new studies and interpretations.
The introduction of food enthusiasts and experts to excellence oils is one of the first aims of the festival, but it is not the only one. The big vision of this festival is to make a change in the language and approach used for seasonings, which are normally underestimated.
The oleologist Luigi Caricato, author of over twenty books about oils, decided to dedicate this first edition of the festival to extra virgin olive oil, widely considered as the king of food fats. The next editions of the festival will be dedicated to other seasonings and to a new product, derived from extra virgin, that will go beyond it. Something new that will go beyond appearances. According to Caricato, “oil from olives is not just a fat like others. It represents a strong symbolic identity that need to be reconsidered today and faced with a more scientific and holistic approach”.
The festival will be a series of episodes that embrace multiple languages. It will start from the cuisine but will immediately go beyond it, exploring new details already widely explored in the course of centuries, but reinterpreted today under the light of new scientific evidence. The different sections of the Olio Officina Food Festival will orbit around the cooking area, which will provide more conceptual then practical insights. There, master chefs will rethink the use of oil and its many gastronomic implications. The underlying concept is that while passing the centuries, we still have something new to experience every time and we always can find something unexpectable in front of us. Everything changes, and even oil is different from what it was produced twenty years ago. Clearly this is reflected in the use of oil for cooking and in different food preparations.
The genius of men does not stop at the past, remaining motionless, but stratifies in the tradition that it innovates, reinterpreting the past and going beyond it. There is still room for testing new expression formulas and new ways to use seasonings in cooking. According to the chef Giuseppe Campano, “the multidirectionality of extra virgin olive oil is a pivotal principle that can really help in cooking. Starting from the characteristics of the dressing it is possible to create new models of food and cuisine, widening the horizons of both occasional and professional cooks”. The aim of Oil Officina Food Festival is to invent new creations in cuisine, designed around extra virgin olive oil, the noblest of all fats, elected at the role of functional food, which can really make the difference in every recipe.
Not only chefs, anyway. At Olio Officina Food Festival there will also be space for the considerations of nutritionists, dieticians, oil chemists, biochemists, pediatricians, besides, of course, oleologists, professionals or amateurs oil tasters, sensory analysts and, more generally, for the interpreters of collective needs. There will be the world of consumers. There will be food professionals, which will follow a training course (not necessary a technical one), specifically devoted to them, about research in cuisine. There will also be researchers, which will follow the scientific aspects concerning the correlations between seasonings and food, in a special session dedicated to them. There will also be space for the qualified entertainment of curious, hobbyists and aspiring chef. For them, besides discussions about new concepts in domestic cuisine, there will be the opportunity to deepen, through the presence of short tasting courses, the aromatic and tactile complexity of extra virgin olive oils.
There is, in short, a world in turmoil at the Olio Officina Food Festival. There will be workshops dedicated to children, where they will play the game “Oils and Ladders”, modeled on the famous “Snakes and Ladders”, where the play space will be an entire room where children will learn to know and love different kind of oils. They will also have the possibility to attend short and amusing tasting lessons ("the nose of children for oil") with a final diploma to be proudly displayed in their room. Moreover, there will also be diet lessons, held by a pediatrician, professor Giuseppe Caramia, now grandfather that dedicates his time to the education of young children, as a new don Giovanni Bosco. Finally, there will be interesting moments dedicated to a holistic view of the oil and a chromo therapeutic vision of oil and food, without forgetting cosmetics and the search for physical and spiritual well being.
Not only oil and not just food. Like any other festival, in the evening, there will be time dedicated to culture and shows. Meetings with writers, anthropologists, philosophers, economists, but also musicians, such as Rhapsodija Trio and classical guitar duo Lorenzo Micheli and Matteo Mela. There will also be a show in Arabic, "Heina and Ghul", by and with Abderrahim El Mayor, directed by Mario Gumina, from the Cooperativa Teatro Laboratorio Brescia.
The picture-symbol of the first edition of the festival, entitled "the lightness of the oil", by Angelo Ruta, is a sort of dance in which all the elements revolve around a drop of oil, which is also the logo of Olio Officina Food Festival, by the designer Alberto Martelli. "I thought to oil as the pure expression of a territory," said Angelo Ruta. "A concentration of aromas, flavors and also of man's work: a story handed down from father to son for centuries. Oil” – concludes Ruta – “is what sides every day, in our kitchen, the most varied dishes, giving them a touch we can’t give up".