Hurrah for Olives!

Although it embarrasses me thoroughly - especially after Saturday last - to confess that I really don't like olives, straight up. Nope: don't care for them, I do not like them in a house, with a mouse, here or there, anywhere - not even at the Olive Ole festival down in Elmendorf, the home of the Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard . . . although I can really, really, and in an almost religious sense - get behind olive oil. Olive oil, drizzled on salads, infused with herbs, brushed over grilled meats, dipped into with chewy pieces of good rich sourdough bread, infinite in goodness, and utility - the cooking oil of the gods. Heck, by way of proving olive oil versatility, there was even a food vendor at Olive Ole offering samples of brownies made with the stuff.

It seems that there has been another Texas oil boom in the works over the last decade - only this time, the oil isn't in them thar hills - but in the trees. It turns out that this part of south Texas is well-suited for growing olive trees, although why it took three hundred years to figure this out and give it a whirl is beyond me. I have always insisted that the Hill Country has the capacity to become the new Provence, what with all those vineyards, and goat-cheese and lavender and all. Limestone hills, oak trees, long-horned cattle - all we really need to make it perfect would be a couple of terraced hill-towns and a couple of castles or two on some of the higher hills. In fact, any day now I expect Toll Brothers or Centex to give that concept go for a fabulously wealthy home-owner.

There were other culinary delights than olives, as the olive-bar array in the main tent was somewhat less enticing for me, as being at the end of a very long line. The Don Strange Ranch had a booth, offering -OMG grilled sausage and vegetables! The Becker Vinyards had their offerings of vino and lavender, and a host of other specialty food providers were also fully represented. A booth offering an interesting combination of fine art pottery and grass-fed beef was "The Bull and China Shop" - Linda Perez, of the L & M Ranch, in Floresville. I wouldn't know about the beef, (there not being any samples available) but the pottery was exquisite and mesmerizing, in that it begged to be picked up and touched, for the sheer tactile joy of it. Some of her pieces combined the delicacy of fine porcelain, and a gemlike pink and cream flush, threaded with a fine, smoky grey crackle pattern which reminded us irresistibly of rose quartz. Two extremes - fragile china and the solidity of stone, met in a single bowl you could hold in your hands. It's complicated to make - she told us about all the steps - and each piece is a triumph against the odds.

I expect there will be an Olive Ole next year - meanwhile, many of the food vendors are at the Saturday Farmer's Market at the Pearl Brewery, or have a regular sales outlet at their location, or through HEB. I think everyone straggled away from this event tired and sunburnt, after a lovely day at the Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard - and replete with olives, in every form imaginable.