Rafa Nadal: “Whether I’m in Shanghai or Spain, I’m always on the lookout for olives or extra virgin olive oil”

Rafa Nadal: “Whether I’m in Shanghai or Spain, I’m always on the lookout for olives or extra virgin olive oil”

2019/14/01 - Little more can be said about Rafa Nadal. We already know he’s the number 1 tennis player in the world, and we also know he’s the best ambassador for the Marca España (“Spain Brand”). Yet if you sit to chat with him about his life outside the court -you may not believe it, but he does have one,- the person behind the legend is revealed, and he is passionate about extra virgin, to the point of making himself sick from eating too many olives at his first communion. Where does the disciplined elite athlete end and the casual foodie begin? Come and see; everyone is a winner in this game.

Your grandmother once said that your first communion was rather tumultuous due to an olive-eating binge… Did you like them that much? What memories come to mind when you think of olives and olive oil?
Yes, I’ve loved olives ever since I was a little boy, and that story is completely true. I ate a whole jar of olives in one go! I always look for olives and even ask for them at restaurants. Not just olives, good olive oil, too. Whether I’m in Shanghai or in Spain, I always ask for both.

As an elite athlete, you have to follow a nutritious and healthy diet. Does extra virgin olive oil have a prominent place in this lifestyle?
Absolutely. It’s a fundamental ingredient for me. Wherever I may be I’ll always have olive oil on toast for breakfast, and I usually eat salads or fish for lunch or dinner, which I season with a drizzle of extra virgin. It’s essential to me, a fixed element in my diet and my way of understanding food.

It’s obvious you love Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine, and you’ve even entered the culinary world with Tatel, but… who cooks at home? Do you like to cook?
I really do love to cook. It’s not like I know how to prepare tons of different dishes, but those I do know, I love and really enjoy cooking them. I love going to the market or the supermarket in Manacor and choosing the fish. I like to bake them in the oven with potatoes, onion… and plenty of oil! That’s one of my favorite and most frequent dishes. I’m also pretty good at pasta, though I eat less of it lately.

If you had more time to cook, what dishes would you prepare? What type of cuisine are you into?
I really love fish and I’d probably expand my recipe repertoire. It’s definitely paramount to start off with excellent raw materials… In Mallorca we have great seafood, and I like to prepare it in the simplest way, to highlight the ingredient’s own flavor. Grilled, but not overcooked, Sóller prawns are amazing.

One of the trees with the greatest symbolic power is the olive tree. As it happens, where you come from there are many ancient trees that still to this day transmit purity, essence, quality… just like your game. Are symbols important in life?
I’d never thought of that parallelism, but it’s totally true. It might be that the traditions are precisely what make my sport, tennis, so special; and that comparison between the ancient tree and a century-old sport becomes so symbolic.

The Mediterranean Diet is on the Representative List of The Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. As a person from Mallorca, what does the Mediterranean culture mean to you?
In my opinion, the Mediterranean culture is a fundamental part of our lives and our way of being. Spain is very rich in culture, especially when it comes to gastronomy. We enjoy eating and have excellent products that are known and valued worldwide. The Mediterranean culture is a way of living life enjoying what it has given us: the climate, the cuisine, the way in which we understand and view things and of course, work.

The latest WHO numbers on child obesity are very worrying. How would you convince a child or a teenager to set bad eating habits aside and start playing sports and eating healthy food?
Sport is very important because, aside from the exercise itself, it holds values that can be used to deal with everyday life. On one hand, its important for kids to have fun and sports are above all, meant to be fun, to have a good time, playing in a team or on your own, yet contending against something or someone the proper way. And on the other hand, food is essential in the growth of children and people in general. The combination of a healthy diet and sports make you a better person and makes you feel better. It may be hard to understand or follow at times, but it’s a matter of education and will.

Last year you sponsored Aceites de Oliva de España (Spanish Olive Oils) in Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, China and the US. What was the experience like?
We were very active in the promotion of our olive oils, and the truth is you realize how much they are appreciated outside of Spain. Much remains to be done, no doubt, but olive oil is becoming better known in many countries and distant markets. It is important to carry out these marketing strategies so that people not only know about them, but know about them more in depth.

You have just received the Premio Especial Aceites de Oliva de España 2017 (Olive Oil from Spain Special Award), along with the Ministry of Agriculture for your support in the Nacidos en España, Admirados en el Mundo (Born in Spain, Admired Globally) campaign. What does this prize mean to you, as it’s so different to the ones you usually receive?
As always, I am very grateful for the work they do, and of course for the prize. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to pick it up in person, but I’m sure at some point I’ll be able to thank them personally for the honor received.

You are at the forefront of sports, always pushing the limits, breaking the mold and being yourself. If you were an olive oil, what kind would you be? Bitter, pungent, mild, bittersweet…?
That’s a tough question to answer. I only know that the oil I prefer is probably very different to what I’m like…

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