Andalusian Festival Inaugurates Virtual Event

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Forty kilo­me­ters north of Málaga, in the heart of Andalusia’s Axorquia region, the tiny vil­lage of Riogordo will cel­e­brate its annual olive oil cul­ture fes­ti­val despite cur­rent COVID-19 con­tain­ment mea­sures.

This year, La Molienda de Riogordo will also inau­gu­rate an online com­pan­ion event, which will take place a few days before the fes­ti­val and is ded­i­cated to the many English-speak­ing res­i­dents of the region.

We share these lands with fam­i­lies whose grand­par­ents grew olives. Going deeper into the world of olive oil is also a way to bet­ter under­stand and inte­grate with the soci­ety of small coun­try vil­lages.– Leila Bayandor Lawson, Organizer

Leila Bayandor Lawson

Appropriately for these times, the theme of this year’s event is the olive tree as a sym­bol of sur­vival, regen­er­a­tion and renewal.

We are re-invent­ing the event in 2021, a piv­otal year since it will be the tenth anniver­sary of La Molienda,” said Leila Bayandor Lawson, the orga­nizer of La Molienda in English, which will be launched on a ded­i­cated web­site on February 13.

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La Molienda de Riogordo, which com­prises edu­ca­tional, culi­nary and tast­ing com­po­nents, has been a two-day event over the past decade, becom­ing a cor­ner­stone of local cul­ture. In 2019, it was awarded the Agustí Serés Memorial Award, one of Spain’s lead­ing olive oil cul­ture prizes.

At the heart of La Molienda fes­ti­val is Riogordo’s ethno­graphic museum, where a his­toric oil mill was restored and con­tin­ues to be pow­ered by a mule.

In 2009, a few res­i­dents came together to restore the mill and since then, it has helped pro­mote the local olive oil cul­ture and pro­duc­tion,” Bayandor Lawson told Olive Oil Times.

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Working with vol­un­teers and olive oil experts, Olearum, an asso­ci­a­tion that pro­motes oil cul­ture and her­itage, began to attract tourists to Riogordo who were inter­ested in the world of olive oil.

In a nor­mal year, we would host con­fer­ences and work­shops and have a museum visit,” Bayandor Lawson said. We would take a tour of the local olive coop­er­a­tives, walk among some of the most beau­ti­ful groves of the area and taste Riogordo olive oil, one of the most inter­est­ing moments for those who come.”

Over the past decade, hun­dreds of vis­i­tors have had the chance to visit the vil­lage and taste the local extra vir­gin olive oil.


We would pre­pare the typ­i­cal Spanish break­fast with olive oil, bread, toma­toes and cheese since tast­ing is a very cen­tral com­po­nent of the expe­ri­ence,” Bayandor Lawson said. Through the tast­ings, peo­ple learn the basics of olive oil.”

The founder of La Molienda in English added that the com­bi­na­tion of the village’s loca­tion in the heart of the world’s largest olive oil pro­duc­ing-region and amidst a sub­stan­tial com­mu­nity of English speak­ers inspired the idea for the new group.

I have been involved since the begin­ning with the Spanish Molienda and the idea to set up a smaller niche gath­er­ing came up year-after-year,” Bayandor Lawson said.

“[So we] set up a smaller gath­er­ing ded­i­cated to the English-speak­ing res­i­dents of the Costa del Sol region, peo­ple not only from the United Kingdom and the United States but also Germany, Sweden and Belgium,” she added.

For Bayandor Lawson, it is essen­tial for every­one in the region to under­stand the vital role that olive-grow­ing has played in Andalusias his­tory and devel­op­ment.

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We live in small, rural areas, where olives are the lifeblood of the vil­lage,” she said. We share these lands with fam­i­lies whose grand­par­ents grew olives. Going deeper into the world of olive oil is also a way to bet­ter under­stand and inte­grate with the soci­ety of small coun­try vil­lages.”

Last year, Bayandor Lawson said La Molienda de Riogordo attracted up to 1,000 peo­ple and included a smaller English-speak­ing group.

For the online 2021 event, we are expect­ing around 100 peo­ple to attend,” Bayandor Lawson added. We were used to wel­com­ing peo­ple from our region and some beyond that. This year we must do every­thing online, but, at least, peo­ple from all over the world can reach us.”

Despite being held online, La Molienda in English will fol­low the course of the usual pro­gram.

Instead of the typ­i­cal break­fast, a res­i­dent will demon­strate to view­ers how to bake the region’s typ­i­cal olive oil bread.

Daniel Garcia Peinado, a famous local chef whose spe­cial­ties revolve around extra vir­gin olive oil, will host an event demon­strat­ing how to pre­pare some of his most suc­cess­ful recipes.

The orga­niz­ers will also take the reg­is­tered users through a vir­tual tour of the olive groves around Riogordo, accom­pa­nied by inter­na­tional experts of the olive cul­ture, with par­tic­u­lar atten­tion given to the mon­u­men­tal olive trees that have sur­vived through the cen­turies.

Among the English-lan­guage guests attend­ing the event is Simon Poole, a med­ical doc­tor and author of the Olive Oil Diet. He will answer diet and health-related ques­tions on Zoom.

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Gary Beauchamp, pres­i­dent of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia who dis­cov­ered of the oleo­can­thal mol­e­cule, will also give a pre­sen­ta­tion.

Other notable guests include Sarah Gray, the gen­eral man­ager of the Olive Wellness Institue in Australia; Ruda Dagmish, the CEO of the Jordan Olive Products Exporters Association; and Imene Trabelsi Trigui, the exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of pro­grams and inno­va­tion strat­egy from Women in Olive Oil.



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