Olive oil

Why it pays to be picky about olive oil

There’s a story that foodie types like to wheel out about what a culinary backwater the British Isles used to be. ‘In the 1970s,’ they’ll begin. ‘The only way you could buy olive oil in Britain was as medicine for your blocked ears!’ While we might argue that Italian delis were importing olive oil to our cities since at least the 19thcentury, it’s certainly true that olive oil is better known here than it used to be. Indeed, the oil shelves at our markets are coming to look like those at a wine shop, with bottles arranged by style and origin. We’ve even seen the arrival of trendy olive oils

French kissing with the French

Every year Vernon celebrates the gathering in and pressing of his olive harvest by inviting friends to a ceremony at his house. This year there were seven of us. He poured about a third of a pint of the freshly pressed, very green oil on to a central white china plate. We each took a small piece of toast, rubbed it with a garlic clove and soaked it in the oil. Then we removed it from the oil and rubbed it against the pulp of a quartered tomato. Apparently it’s a Provençal peasant tradition. The new green oil catches the back of the throat and isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.

I was the only Trump supporter among the olive-pickers

We bums find ourselves sought after at this time of year to lend a hand with the olive harvest. So this week I’ve been standing on a tarpaulin in a sunny field combing olives off olive branches. It’s a good year for olives. The trees are laden and the work is pleasantly monotonous. The minimal level of thought needed to accomplish the task shuts down the internal Red Army choir of negative thoughts that normally drowns out the competition, offering the mind a holiday. In the mornings we combed to the sound of birds twittering in the trees; after lunch to Fip music radio, state-financed, eclectic. On Thursday the smoky-voiced