Dietribes: Olives, Oil Around Us


"¢ Olive oil is one of civilization's oldest foods, dating to at least the 10th century B.C. The word "oil" actually is derived from the same root as "olive," so the two have historically gone hand-in-hand.

"¢ But how is olive oil made? And what makes it "virgin," and how is it pressed? Mario Batali gives a few succinct insights into the process in an NPR interview that sheds some helpful light on the process.

"¢ Olive oil is known to have plenty of positive healthy properties. Homer even called it "liquid gold." It's been know to soothe ear aches, be good for the skin, prevent hair balls in cats, and a sundry of other miraculous things, like lowering your risk of heart disease by reducing the total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol levels in your blood.

"¢Â It's also works wonders when consumed (besides just adding a tasty flavor): Jeanne Calment, a French woman who died at age 122,  credited her longevity to Port wine, a diet rich in olive oil, and her sense of humor. " (She also used to rub it on her skin every day)

"¢ The godfather of soul, James Brown, is a fan, and always asked for olive oil to be brought on the road for health: "Olive oil. I always tell them, 'Bring olive oil on the road.' " Lady bugs like it too - but only organic. My favorite insect is known to prefer organic olive orchards (which, really, is no surprise!).

"¢Â Why should spinach get all the credit? The Popeye comics were started without Popeye:  when Elzie Crisler Segar started drawing the strip, it was about the Oyl family (including, of course, Olive).Â

"¢Â Vito "Godfather" Andolini Corleone may not be the only "crime" associated with olive oil - there's also been a problem with quality fraud.

"¢Â In the category of "if you're into that kind of thing," (and I'm not necessarily saying I'm not!) there's Turkish greased wrestling, a.k.a. Kirkpinar, where wrestlers put olive oil over their entire body and duke it out at an annual festival.

"¢ I'll go ahead and say that I am with Homer on this - olive oil is truly liquid gold. I put it on everything I cook and even used to shave my legs with it! I feel like Gwyneth Paltrow in "Spain: On the Road Again" when she doused some veggies for about 2 minutes in oil, and Mario Batali said, "did you get enough on there?" It's a good substitution for butter in mashed potatoes, too. I could go on and on, but I'll leave some of it up to you Flossers! What are your favorites, what do you use it in, and does anyone use olive oil in non-food situations? (PS - thanks to my friend Alex for the inspiration of this week's title!)

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"˜Dietribes' appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.