Olive Oil

“THE OLIVE TREE IS THE RICHEST GIFT OF HEAVEN” —Thomas Jefferson

“Anyone who has uprooted or felled an olive tree either property of the government or the state or private citizen will be judged in court and if found guilty will be sentenced to death”. I would say that Aristotle in quoting the constitution of Athenian recognized the importance of the olive tree as the sacred symbol of Athens. Homer referred to the juice of the olive to be “Liquid gold”. Hippocrates considered olive oil a medicinal product, used in over 60 pharmaceutical applications. If our forefathers knew the merits of olive oil some 3000 years ago and it being the major basic ingredient of the Mediterranean Diet for centuries, why did it take American food scientist 3000 years to discover its merits as a nutritional product?

The answer is that Americans never considered the olive or its oil a worthy product. That is why without appreciation a silly cartoon character Olive Oyl was named after the olive while many in the world recognized the juice of the olive as liquid gold. For the olive to gain some status in America it took the combination of gin and vodka. For the oil to gain some status it took the baby boomers in their search for longevity along with many studies that determined the basic ingredient of the Mediterranean Diet to be quality olive oil. When informed that she was the longest living recorded human, Jeanne Calment who lived to be 122 claimed her secret was 2 tablespoons of olive oil every day, interests began to augment.

Many centenarians like my mother, with limited formal education, who died at 105 years old, knew without reading the latest studies or analyzing statistics, the merits of this liquid gold, as did my mother in law who choose to die at 106 in relatively good health. My two mothers belong to a group of centenarians who may have never gone to a gym or attended scheduled exercise classes but followed the teaching of their ancestors. Their diet need not have been expensive, but with a few drops of good olive oil they were able to enhance the flavor of simple dishes into delicious healthy items. Could this be a major factor contributing to their longevity? I believe so. It amazes me why food science took centuries to discover what was obvious, the curative properties of olive oil. My theory is the culprit may be possibly the desire of the food industry to continue to constantly present new profitable items to temp the consumer to buy regardless of it being an inferior health product, such as sweetened dressings with unknown additives and chemicals.

Being that until the age of 17 I had never eaten out other than with my family to functions with our Italian friends or festivals where I experienced only a dressing of good olive oil, I was embarrassed when presented for the first time in college a thick sweet white glob of dressing on my salad. I felt foolish when questioning what it was and to be told with a perplexed face from a sorority sister, “What do you mean? It is dressing.” In college I noticed that omnipresent bottle of olive oil was not a fixture on our table as it was at home. What took its place were bottles of sauces, butter, salt, pepper and ketchup to help insipid dishes taste better.

I do believe children should be introduced to it as soon as given solid foods. The Italian mother will make broth and mash vegetables in it often as a baby’s first solid food. This is always topped with a few drops of liquid gold.  It is no wonder as adults they continue to seek out quality liquid gold to enhance their many dishes.

Children experiencing the harvest

In my upbringing salad was served at the end of the meal to help one digest the dinner with a good vinaigrette dressing. Seeing what was served on salads in my college days I suspect would only add to the problems of digesting. Mother’s appetizers while waiting for dinner were seasonal vegetables to nibble on while waiting for dinner or to dip into a small dish of olive oil and speck of salt (no industrial balsamic).  It was a sure way, when hungry, to start by eating vegetables. Our first dish was always followed by the second dish, we would call main course, but we were never served dessert unless when guests came and or for special occasions and holidays. Meals usually ended with cheeses, fruit, and or baskets of whole mixed nuts to crack and extend the time at the table. In college I learned the American way °save room for desert°. I did not understand this since often my college friends would leave part of their meal so that they could indulge in some sweet concoction that did not tempt me at all. Sweets after a good meal was never experienced by me in my home. Real food usually left little room for that caloric finally.

Jean Claude from France harvesting those high branches

It was hard to convince the merits of our olive oil when I started producing it in Tuscany in the 80’s so I began a series of lectures on olive oil which motivated many or our guests to try our liquid gold. When attendees came for our olive oil seminars they could understand the reason for the cost of good olive oil when they experienced the hard chore of picking by hand olives so as not to bruise them which would increase the deterioration of the nutritional merits. Happy to say many of our original clients have become regulars for some 30 years. Regulars that no longer ask me for a liter of oil but have ordered from me 50 or 100 liters in a year to consume daily or give as gifts. New customers continue requesting a liter which in our household would last a couple of days considering a few drops would enhance the flavor of most of our dishes.  Not to augment sales but I try to convince clients that a liter is not to be stored but used and if used properly will not last but a few days.  Latest publicity on the merits of good olive oil have finally educated the public on the need to consume at least 2 tables a day for healthy living,

Here you can see olive oil going out for our regulars. Some buy them for Christmas gifts which usually results in adding another customer to our list of regulars. We prefer using stainless steel containers as you can see in the picture. Small party favors in stainless of 250 mg are about enough for a meal for two, whereas the 3 liter stainless is great for families where olive oil can be stored protected from the elements.

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