Octopus and Extra Virgins

You may remember in April I penned a post after winning a competition run by Belazu, formerly the Fresh Olive Company, for Leiths students. I had sort of completely forgotten about my prize- a trip to the olive groves in Catalonia amidst all of the Christmas Issues (the magazine kind, not the rising stress as we all realise that we have a mountain of Christmas shopping yet to conquer, and the big day is just 1 month away. Yep- sorry to remind you). 

Well a few weeks ago I was contacted by the lovely Alice, who swiftly booked me on to the trip with a handful of apprentices and Chefs from Galvin’s and Lexington’s, a writer from Great British Chefs, and a few other members of the Belazu team. 

The catch? My taxi to the airport was arriving to pick me up at 5.10am on Thursday. 

I believe there are two types of people in this world. This is not North vs South. Brexiteers vs Remainers. Trump vs Hillary.  Oh no. I believe this issue to have caused divides so deep between family, friends and partners that is has caused colossal arguments on a frequent basis, break ups, estrangement, and in severe cases- perhaps even murder. 

This is Late vs Early. 

I am a fundamentally Late person. So is my mum. 

My best friends are both Early. So is my boyfriend. 

I am the kind of person that is perpetually around 3-10 minutes late to pretty much everything. I occasionally get stressed when it’s something important I am running late to, but generally I’m pretty chilled out about this fact. I see it as something beyond my control (some may call this ‘denial’). Some people have it much worse- their Late gene causes them to keep people waiting for 30 minutes or more. I feel mine is a mild case, although some people (namely said Early boyfriend) would disagree. 

He is, like my two closest friends, the type of person that loses their shit if they’re not 10 minutes early to everything. 

From my experience, both sides of the camp find the other side infinitely infuriating. It’s an irresolvable issue. 

I was born Late (2 weeks to be exact). I will probably always be Late. 

Some people will always be Early. 

So really it should have come as no surprise when- instead of rising from my bed with plenty of time to spare, I was  in fact woken up by my taxi driver calling me from outside my house at exactly 5.10 on Thursday morning to tell me he was waiting for me in the drive. 


The mad panic which ensued, trying to get out of the house in time to still catch my flight, really set the tone for the rest of the trip. 

In my head, two days in beautiful sunny Catalonia, laid back visits to olive groves and getting a nice early night at a hotel, sounded terribly civilised and relaxing. 

Believe me, I was wrong. 

The drinking started at lunchtime, whilst eating jamon and Pan con Tomate, generously drenched in olive oil (what else?) surrounded by the beautiful olive groves and vineyards that had produced the wine and oil we were now consuming. Merrily. 

After a tour of the groves, a very hands on harvesting demonstration, a trip to the mill to see where the olives are crushed, a professional olive oil tasting, plenty more tapas, and a few bottles of wine later, I was more than ready for bed. Especially considering the early start. 

I did eventually get to bed- at 5am.

It turns out that chefs and their apprentices enjoy a rare night off with gusto- dragging poor little tired me through 4 Spanish bars, handing me glass after glass of free-poured gin and tonics, and eventually ending up in a nightclub at 2.30am, of which every inch of available floor space was packed with Spanish teenagers. 

By the time we left, I was accompanying one of the Belazu team into a taxi, yelling ‘Anglaise? English? Inglesa? Oui! Oh shit.. what is it in Spanish? Si! Si! Erm… hotel… what was it called? Do you take cards?’ 

We did make it home, no thanks to my shocking standard of GCSE Spanish (cheers Mrs Beardmore for all the useful language skills) and after googling the Spanish word for ‘receipt’ (it’s, rather obviously ‘recibo’ if anyone’s interested), we were tucked up in bed, albeit with a cracked phone screen to show for our endeavours. 

It’s safe to say when we all assembled for breakfast the following morning, there were a few heads a little worse for wear. 

But the real test was still to come. These weathered chefs are hardcore, and at 9.30am, a bottle of the same red we had been drinking the night before arrived on the table, accompanied by garlicky octopus. Enough to make most people’s stomach turn, but it was eagerly consumed by the entire table, bar one of the apprentices who was curled up outside the front door of the restaurant feeling very sorry for himself. 

The vinegars we tasted that day were quite incredible, as was the fig leaf olive oil, and the extra early harvest olive oil we tried, but I’m not sure I will ever get the image out of my head of one of the  members of our trip swinging his shirt above his head, flanked by two girls sporting little more than leather negligee, as the hundreds of Spanish 16 year olds watched on with a mix of horror and amusement etched on their tanned faces. 

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