Suffolk Magazines interview with Casa de l'Oli
For the first few years Tim and Simone and their two younger daughters lived in Spain full time, and sold their ever-growing crop to a local processor. Then Tim’s elderly father became ill and, realising that they would need to spend at least part of each year in the UK to care for him, they decided that they would produce their own oil and import it for sale.
The results, says Simone, have been even better than they might have hoped.
Casa de l’Oli oil, which is extra virgin and cold pressed, can now be found at an increasing number of farmers’ markets and farm shops across Suffolk and Essex including Alder Carr at Creeting St Mary and the Butley-Orford Oysterage at Orford.
Customers who have tried it regularly come back for more. They also sell a version which is smoked over oak, which they recommend as a dip, or for use in marinades for fish or chicken.
Simone, who was brought up in Ipswich, says she enjoys the time they spend in Catalonia.
“Day-to-day life there is very different from how it is here – it’s like stepping back into the England of the ‘40s and ‘50s. There’s a simplicity of values, and their priorities are very different. Where we live it’s a village of 600 people, and several generations of a family will live together. “Everybody knows everyone else, and they look after each other. You come home to find cherries left on your doorstep, and when someone kills a wild boar the whole village shares. “In a crisis everybody will help out, and they’re very welcoming to people who are prepared to become involved in village life.
It would be no good going there and wanting to live a G&T, drinks-on-the-terrace sort of expat life, to be accepted you need to join in.
“Every morning at 7am, for instance, a number of the women from the village gather outside the church, and take a stroll up the mountain and back, because that’s the coolest time of day. It’s very friendly, with lots of gossip, and that’s how I’ve learned a lot of Catalan.
Now when we come back home England seems so busy, I really notice the traffic and noise”. Simone and Tim sell vinaigrette dressing, made from their own oil and Italian balsamic vinegar, caramelised walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts, all grown in the area around their olive grove; olive paste and a new product, olive jam. They are enthusiastic advocates for their benefits.
“Nutritionists have known for years that the Mediterranean diet is a very healthy one, and that’s largely due to the use of olive oil,” says Simone. “It’s known to help keep hearts healthy because it contains no cholesterol, and is high in mono-unsaturates and anti-oxidants which help prevent heart disease and some cancers, and it can be beneficial in conditions such as arthritis.
“There’s a mass of evidence that a diet based on olive oil can promote longer life, but what’s so important is that with all this it also tastes wonderful. After all, we eat for pleasure as well as health, and what fun is healthy food if it doesn’t taste good?”