At this time of the year, now that the visiting tourists have thinned out, and the resorts are preparing for their winter closures, you might imagine that Majorca is preparing for its big winter sleep! Well, think on. Wakey! Wakey! It’s fiesta time, when the island rocks into life with a plethora of party pieces across the land, starting with the autumn fairs. Those summer tourists don’t know what they are missing!
With Dijous Bo – the biggest fair on the island calendar – taking place Thursday 14th in Inca; Caimari - just a hop skip and a hoop throw away in the north west of the island, is preparing or its annual olive fair.
Caimari is a seriously picturesque mountain village surrounded by an impressive landscape of sweeping olive groves. Set against a stunning backdrop featuring the Tramuntana mountain range, this unique location creates the perfect setting for Caimari’s famed olive fair, due to take place across the 16 and 17 November.
The Caimari olive fair, previously named by The Guardian as one of the top ten gastronomic festivals in Europe, attracts visitors and olive producers from the four corners of the Balearics, along with connoisseurs of ‘natures nectar’ hailing from the Spanish mainland. There’s liquid gold in them there hills – or so says the legend! And Olive Oil is not only the famous girlfriend of a particular, muscle-bound sailor, but a vital part of Mediterranean and Majorcan living. Back in the day, before the UK became a nation of dedicated drizzlers, the only place you could really find ‘Popeye’s Girl’ was in the chemist where it was sold as an agent to either soften ear wax or alleviate warts. Women also massaged olive oil into their hair before having a fashionable perm, as well as using it as an effective antidote for dry skin. Some people also swore blind that swallowing a teaspoon a day cured the problem of excessive flatulence, a notion which never really caught on in the North of England, where beef dripping was believed to provide the miraculous cure for almost everything!
Before the ‘Mediterranean awakening’ in the UK, everyone was going crazy for ‘Crisp and Dry’, which became all the rage in the early 70’s by guaranteeing golden chips that didn’t stick together. We also had ‘Mazola Corn Oil’ for frying eggs and that was about it! We didn’t dribble oil across salads in those days, we used salad cream. And a vinaigrette dressing was something people only ever whispered about in the back streets of Knightsbridge! Rocket was something you sent off to the moon. And as for lambs’ lettuce, lollo rosso, frisée, oak leaf, radicchio! Who knew? Far too exotic to reach the common table! The only lettuce we had back then was what Granddad grew out on yonder allotment! And if it came without slugs it was a bonus!
Even as late as the 1980’s, olive oil was generally only found in up market grocers and delicatessens. Iconic food writer Elizabeth David did mention the golden liquid way back in the 50’s when she led the way to a culinary revolution by publishing a book on Mediterranean cuisine. But it was really around that trending time of the early 90’s, when Deliah Smith first introduced jars of sun dried tomatoes to the British public, that people became more aware of olive oil’s presence in supermarkets, and grew excited about the benefits and different uses of olive oil in their new found, revolutionary cuisine.
Olive oil quickly became massive as its popularity in the UK grew, then snowballed into the every day condiment it has become today, even though it has been around in the Med for thousands of years.
Although we embraced olive oil for years before moving to Majorca, nearly two decades ago, every meal we have here on the island, whether in or out, usually starts with, contains, or is accompanied by a good glug of virgin golden oil. I have become an addicted fan, and reach for Olive’s nectar at every opportunity. Not only is it my chosen oil for cooking, but I am also in awe of all its different varieties, qualities and flavours, from those spiced with chillies, peppers, lemon zest etc. to others infused with nuts, garlic, garden herbs, or the simply natural, which remain as virginal as nature intended.
Indigenous olive trees have been growing on the island for centuries, and with over 200,000 trees scattered across Majorca, the humble olive has played an important role in providing a key source of revenue for many local estates and villages.
The olives from Majorca are reputed to yield oil with an even higher unsaturated fat ratio compared to that of other oils, made from imported olives. How about that then! This has naturally led to positive speculation and recent claims championing the health benefits surrounding Majorcan olive oil. We just knew ours was the best, didn’t we!
Caimari is well known for its ‘Oli Caimari’, a modern tafona (olive mill) which produces and distributes its famous island brand, and is naturally headlined at this local event. The village itself, with typical stone houses, a pretty church and quaint narrow lanes, wraps itself like a comfy cardy around a charming, central square, setting the perfect scene for this small,
yet exquisite ‘feria’. The entire venue is usually scattered with olive leaves and flanked by cosy stalls offering not only a wonderful atmosphere, but tasty titbits with ‘liquid gold’ being the obvious star. Bread nibbles laced with ‘aceite’ and topped with spicy ‘sobrasada’, ‘jamon iberico’ and ‘queso’ all go down very nicely thank you. Local ‘hierbas’ also makes an appearance and warms the cockles a treat as you stroll through this traditional event.
All things olive are represented at the fair, from the humble olives themselves to tapenades, spreads, soaps and breads, to candles and cakes and olive wood creations. You will find a celebration of olive wood from casually carved spoons and bowls to intricately sculpted furniture and art pieces. The smooth feel of olive wood along with its many twisted forms creates an immediate organic sensation that is unequaled in any other wood.
We usually like to stroll around the fair late afternoon when the sun is slipping down behind the village rooftops. This is my favourite time at this particular fair, as the entire event becomes bathed in a warm, golden glow from the street lamps, and candle lit stalls. It’s quite a magical experience and really worth a visit.
So go make a date with Olive and head for Caimari on 16 /17 November - you might not spot Popeye but you will definitely come away with a bottle of his girlfriend’s best oil!