Spectacle in arena pits machismo against festival’s challenge
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – Because we enjoy fanciful tales from inventive minds, we’d like to share one about how pimentos, anchovies and the like get placed into olives.
The Mansion Grand, featuring Alissia’s Cafe, on the Great Kills waterfront, not only admires those who ponder such things but also salutes the explanations’ creators.
So let us go now to Spain, where a large crowd in the arena eagerly awaits El Olivador and the drama of the Corrida d’Olivas.
Boys dream of one day becoming one of the great Oliveros, and by mid-afternoon the Plaza d’Olivas is crowded as excitement mounts and the band announces the Olivador’s grand entry.
Closely following are his assistants: the picador, with his picks of sharpened wood, and the matador, or mat holder, with his small, round mat.
They bow to the presidente municipale, or mayor, in his box, who signals for the trumpet to sound and the first olive to be wheeled in.
A gasp goes up, for this is no ordinary olive. It is the giant Oliva Brava, specially bred in the rugged foothills.
When the trumpet sounds again, the picador holds his picks at arm’s length and prods the olive to determine whether the pit runs up and down or at an angle, which would mean it is a dreaded Oliva Revoltosa.
A third and last trumpet flourish signals the moment of truth. The Olivador bows again to the presidente, saying “I dedicate to you this olive.” He then places it on his knee.
After a prayer, he raises the pica high above his head. All is hushed. And then in one sudden movement he jabs into the heart of the olive. He has made an ole!, and a great cry of “Olé!” goes up.
Before the gutted olive can fall to the sand it’s caught by the matador on his mat and dragged out of the arena.
It is then handed over to the Estuffadores, who are the Estuffadores Pimentos and the Estuffadores Anchovas.
Woe betides the Olivador whose olive is Revoltosa, for at the moment of pica, the pick, glancing off the angled pit, will jab hard into his own knee.
A risky sport? What we have experienced in the olive-stuffing festival is total catharsis in the primeval drama of man pitted against the olive.
This edited condensation is based on the monologue “Los Olividados” by Michael Flanders of the British comedy duo Flanders and [Donald] Swann, performed in their 1950s show “At the Drop of Another Hat.”
About the Mansion Grand, featuring Alissia’s Café
Overlooking the panoramic vista of Great Kills Harbor, the Mansion Grand, featuring Alissia’s Café, is a popular Staten Island, N.Y., destination for catered banquets, Italian/Continental a la carte dining, and gourmet prix fixe dinners from $19.95.
The iconic establishment, once known as the Marina Grand, is located at 141 Mansion Ave., in the community of Great Kills.
For reservations, additional information, or inclusion on the Mansion Grand/Alissia’s Café email list of special offers, call 718-605-9200, or log onto http://mansiongrand.com.