Thursday, December 05, 2013

My Kinda Garage Sale!

There are Italian festivals called sagre (plural of sagra) that celebrate the harvest (above) and often center around a type of local food from the region like eggplants or onions or polenta or, yes, even frogs. Almost every village has an olive oil festival at some point in the year, often after the olives are pressed. The oil, stored in 50-liter metal canisters called fustino, is poured into containers, often wine bottles, brought by the villagers and then taken home to be used throughout the season.

For the last several years, Portland has been one of those villages celebrating the Italian olive oil harvest, thanks to Jim Dixon of Real Good Food. He originally began his own sagra in the garage of his home in Irvington (left), selling olive oil to friends and neighbors who would bring their containers to be filled from the fustino he imported from Italy. A pot of soup was on the hot plate, there was wine and often some homemade nocino from the walnuts that fell from the tree in his front yard, and a crackling fire pit in the driveway to warm the villagers'…I mean, customers'…hands.

One year, though, it got so cold that the oil in the fustino (right) in his unheated garage started to solidify, making filling the wine bottles somewhat problematic. It was about the same time that his selection of products expanded from olive oil, salt and dried beans to grains, oregano, capers and more, much too much to fit in the old garage.

So for the last couple of years Jim can be found celebrating the sagra in his (thankfully heated) retail space in inner SE Portland, where he still fills wine bottles with oil from the fustino and ladles out soup and sips of wine to customers, with a warming fire in the parking lot outside. And I can say from personal experience that a basket of, say, a small bottle of olive oil, a bit of fennel pollen and some Pantellerian capers and oregano make a very appreciated gift under the tree for your favorite cook or holiday host.

Details: Olive Oil Garage Sale (and more!). Fri.-Sat., Dec. 20-21; Noon-5 pm. Real Good Food, 833 SE Main St., Suite 122, on the ground floor on the NE corner of the building. 503-380-1067.

Photo at top of Sagra Astigiane by Andrea Marchisio from Wikimedia Commons.

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