An Ode to Olive Oil
The tingling smell of olive oil
Floating over boiling water
with a dash of salt
On a more serious note, while I was preparing dinner last night I came to the realization of how much my cooking relies on olive oil. Salads, pastas, toast, vinaigrettes, sauces, vegetables, sometimes with white fish… it’s become my go-to ingredient.
It was the summer of 2015. I was traveling with my family, and in two occasions we consumed olive oil like we never had before. Our family originates from Spain; there’s always been a gallon of olive oil sitting in my grandma’s kitchen for whatever purpose necessary. That summer, however, we took it a step further.
Sunday nights with my family tend to be Anthony Bourdain nights; discussing what we would try, what we wouldn’t, keeping count of how many drinks show up on screen… watching Parts Unknown is a dynamic in our house. When we travel, we sometimes remember what Bourdain’s shown on screen, and if we’re feeling curious, we might as well try it.
My family had planned for us to visit the 2015 World Expo in Milan. Centered around food and its production - plus being hosted in Italy - it was not a surprise to find a stand dedicated entirely to olive oil. Though we did not expect to end up doing shots before noon.
Shots of olive oil, that is. Different oils were presented, varying in equipment used when processing, types of olives, and methods of creation. The stand’s visitors were to taste the oil, in a similar manner one would taste wine, and try to tell the difference between olive oil, virgin olive oil, and extra virgin olive oil.
At first, it felt weird. Why would I be drinking oil served straight out of the bottle? After the second shot, my insides felt smoother and somewhat agreed to keep on tasting. The rich, gooey taste that tickles your tongue at the right places and warmly slathers nicely around your throat has something that brings back memories of delicious pasta and the smell of tomato toast.
Fast forward a couple of days later. We found ourselves sitting at a tavern’s small dock in Santorini, with no more than five tables, sitting around a plate of roes, also known as the sea urchins’ insides.
We couldn’t remember if it was Bourdain or Bill Weir on The Wonder List who travelled to Greece and sat on one occasion to eat urchins and sip on ouzo. At first we all doubted our order, seeing the pieces of protein floating around the plate. As soon as we took a bite of bread smeared with roe and a generous amount of olive oil, we regretted nothing.