10 Jan

Olive oil has a fascinating past; healthy, delicious present

By Evie Barkin,

The story of olives and olive oil is complex. The origin of olive oil is a mystery, but cultivated olives date back more than 6,000 years. Described as liquid gold by Homer, in ancient Greece, athletes rubbed it on their bodies. Olive oil has been more than just food to peoples of the Mediterranean. It has been medicinal, magical and a source of wealth and power.

The olive branch known as a sign of peace, and crowns of olive branches were worn by victorious athletes in the Olympic games. The oil was used to anoint powerful figures. There are many references in the Bible to olive oil. There was belief that olive oil gave strength and youth, and it was used for both medicine and cosmetics.

Olive trees grow wild, and were first cultivated either by the Romans or Greeks. In Greece, olives were said to have been created by the goddess Athena. Olive trees may live to be 1,500 years old.

Surrounded with myth and legends, we are going to have some fun with olive oil and olives. With so many varieties available, from so many different places, they come in a huge array of colors and flavors.

Many of you have been to wine tastings, but have you ever done an olive oil tasting? This can make a fun and interesting party.
Invite some friends, asking each one to bring a different olive oil. Cover the table with white paper or place mats, so you don’t let oil spills ruin your cloth. Have clear, or small, white cups, so you will be able to see the difference in color. Put out one cup per bottle per person. Have some plain French or Italian bread, cut or torn into small chunks, for each person. Pour a small amount of oil in each cup.
Remember, you are just there to taste. First, smell each one. You want to sense the difference in aroma. Then taste, one at a time, letting the oil roll over your tongue. Let your guests enjoy the different flavors. Have everyone share their opinions and then do an oil swap. Each oil will give a dish a different flavor.

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