I’ve taken a circuitous route to olive oil, beginning with the pig, followed eventually by the fruit of the Mediterranean.
Whenever she cooked bacon, which was several times a week, my grandmother saved the drippings in a small aluminum container that had its own built in ‘filter’ in the top. Any bits would remain in the filter and whatever dripped through would be pure bacon grease. Not appealing to some, but pure heaven to those of us who ate my grandmother’s food. She fried steak in bacon grease, potatoes, embellished green beans with a spoonful, and used it to make her wilted green salad, a salad which as a young child I loved. Kudos to bacon grease. Still true, though I’ve added olive oil to my repertoire. (Though no bacon ice cream for me. There are limits.)
Olives and their oil are not my grandmother’s bacon drippings, but they’re equally delicious. Pork fat, by the way, has come into its own again as a ‘safe’ fat, and some say we should be eating it for its benefits. Likewise with olive oil, its origins the drippings of the olive.
Mixed Greens’ primary focus is about encouraging ourselves and others to eat seasonally, locally and sustainably whenever possible – at least keeping it in mind when consuming whatever and making thoughtful choices. Olive oil and the Mediterranean are ageless and we’re smitten with their history, but there is the other olive oil . . . the California variety. The one that comes from a few hundred miles south of here. California’s Olive Oils Challenge Europe’s , NY Times, October 26, 2011.
Domestic and imported versions look almost the same, are almost the same. However, one was transported five to six thousand miles to arrive in PNW grocery stores, the other more like seven hundred miles. One is steeped in romance and ancient history, the other not so much, though California has a little olive oil history of its own. Olive trees were originally planted at Spanish missions there in the 18th century, thrived for a while and then languished during most of the twentieth century. Clearly there’s a revival happening. Italian, Greek and Spanish oils are not easily abandoned, but we do have a domestic alternative that deserves consideration.
I’ve heard rumors that there may be a gutsy B.C. farmer willing to try growing olive trees. It sounds crazy, but there’s more and more evidence about the variety of foods we’ve given up trying to grow that we might grow successfully again. PNW olive groves may or may not be one of them. So, what’s the point? If you enjoy the taste and health benefits of olive oil, and wish to find ways to diminish your carbon footprint and the affects of global warming, then domestic olive oil is something to consider. Or, you could buy a pound of locally produced bacon every couple of weeks!
While you’re thinking about it all, try this herbaceous mix with a delicious loaf of bread.
Pour a little dish of olive oil (from California?) and add to it a few morsels from the garden: a sprig of rosemary, a smashed clove of garlic, bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Dried Sungold tomatoes from last summer are a luxurious addition. Dive in with a piece of bread, take a bite, savor it and be grateful that seven-hundred-mile olive oil is an option and about five thousand miles closer than the admittedly luscious imports from southern Europe.
California olive oil can be found in most grocery stores, including organic Napa Valley Olive Oil (the Napa Valley Naturals brand), and there are options to explore online. Links below are a source of additional information.
Recent New York Times magazine article, Visiting the Source: Olive Oil.
This post is a Mixed Greens blast from the past, originally posted in 2009.