The last of the olive harvest is over and the crop was a good one well I take that back, it was fantastic. The hard work always brings a smile after the olives have gone to milling and the finished product is dripping from a thick piece of bread toasted quickly at screaming high heat, rubbed with a clove of garlic and sprinkled with salt…true heaven for those who love just-pressed extra virgin olive oil. There is even more satisfaction as it rolls over the tongue, spicy and fragrant, a bright emerald green; the thought that you picked it yourself and, you worked your blooming arse off to get it...add to the flavor appreciation.
Nowadays, in Italy the laws have become so encumbering, picking olives has become another dying act. Granted in the past, people took advantage of those they hired to help pick; today if you hire, you need to pay insurance on them, pay them an hourly wage, a minimum of 9 Euros/hour (hell, way beyond minimum wage in the States) and some go as far as asking for product as well the hourly wage. So tell me, how can anyone afford to even pick the fruit off the trees when the product sells at market price of 9 Euros per liter????
If you do not have a large family, which is now the case in so many Italian homes as the families are not only getting smaller but moving to the easier jobs and cleaner jobs as well meaning, they leave the parents on the farm, alone to do what used to be done in numbers. So what is a person to do who is alone with a butt load of trees to pick? How are they supposed to bring to market a lost treasure, stupendous in flavor (and organic)? An oil tasting of fresh green olives packed full of beneficial properties and history? It used to be “an event” in the countryside at “olive time” where the families came together, took days off from their jobs to get to the fields and pick. Lunch would be had in the fields either over a makeshift campfire grilling fresh sausage, bread, pancetta and such all watered down with homemade wine.
The time spent picking was a time of recounting gossip of the month and catching up on who is doing what, there would be laughter and voices of others in fields nearby floating upon the air who were doing the exact same thing. Everyone happy, working quickly if the weather was cold since harvest time was usually the beginning of December, and if not cold everyone would be relaxed, happy and working for that liquid gold, for that first Bruschetta of the year.
Life was simpler, harder but full of satisfaction.Today, it is a rush to get to mill, the weather is not the same so harvest time starts at the end of October and if you have too much to pick, you might wind up leaving the fruit on the trees unable to pick it all. You legally are not allowed to have anyone help except direct family, mother, father, son or daughter. Cousins mean insurance, actually anyone means insurance however tell me…are those bastard twits in uniform or undercover from the Finanza really going around looking for people picking olives?
Seriously! I need to figure this one out…or do they show up if someone rats on you, like jealous neighbors? Damn, always have to be nice to neighbors because you never know when they might stick it to you and here in Italy, the laws are made for snitches and tattletales.
So what is for dinner tonight? La Bruschetta!!!!!!!!!!