As my path through the food timeline weaves in and out, I’ve come to realize an obvious but crucial point: I don’t have a passion for food. Rather, I have a passion for very specific foods. What this means is that even though I will give every topic a requisite level of attention, it is inevitable that I will give more attention to topics that mean much to me as opposed to others.
I bring this up, because the next topic on my agenda is the olive. Olives are to be filed on the “passion” side of the equation, for several reasons. Yeah, yeah, they taste good and play an important role in several cuisines, including my current cuisine passion – Italian. But more important to me is how much a role the little ol’ olive played in the development of various cultures. When religions are using a food in various rites and rituals, you know how important that crop had to have been.
Isis is said to have given the Egyptians the ability to extract oil from the olive. In Greece, it was Pallas Athene who gave the city-states the oil. The Romans also venerated the little fruit. In the tale of Noah and his Ark, it is a dove carrying an olive branch that signals the end of the flood and that land is near. Say what you will about religion, they knew what was recognizable to their flock.
The Olive is said to have originated in the East, on the eastern side of what is now present day Iran, and migrated to the middle east and then finally to the Meditteranean. The Romans took over from there, spreading it through trade and conquest. As the saying goes, the Meditteranean ends where the olive tree fails to grow, and to a large extent that was true. Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Egypt all have had their hand in the history of olives. The extraction of the oil from the olives proved to change the course of food history over the past 3000 worlds.
So we move from Lettuce to Olives. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll try to cover as much as possible, including several posts about olive oil.