Olives on my mind…
Standing in my kitchen in Cornwall while the cold winter winds blow the trees outside, I’m drizzling golden green extra virgin olive oil over freshly sliced tomatoes and dreaming of my childhood summers on the Adriatic coast of Italy. I know it’s not the right season to eat tomatoes, so I have no right to complain that these taste of nothing, but I yearn for the clean fragrant freshness given of those plump red orbs of joy when they are ripe. In a moment I am transported:
The best part of lunch was the moment Mum gave me the nod to dunk the last chunk of fresh bread into the salad bowl, soaking up the remaining tomato juices that had combined perfectly with peppery extra virgin olive oil and sweet lemon juice. Heavenly. Some days the nod went to my brother, some to my father but most days, with my pleading eyes staring at her in anticipation and my obvious delight at eating, meant the pleasure was more frequently mine.
At home I find myself picking up a bottle of olive oil so many times a day; I drizzle some on my steamed spinach and egg in the morning, dress my salads at lunch, slosh some in the pan or drizzle it over vegetables, fish and meat to roast in the oven. Despite the fact it sits next to fine cold pressed rapeseed oil, sunflower, peanut oil and now thanks to deliciously Ella et al coconut oil, it is this ingredient I reach for daily. Olive oil is s big part of how I cook and eat.
Last summer my culinary interest in olives and olive oil combined with my love of travel and yearning to explore. I sat in the shade of an olive tree in a garden in Provence and decided to get to the roots of the olive. I would go on a journey with my kids, pick up a cranky camper-van I could get on the road for very little, pack the tents and camping stove and hit the road.
My (loose and as yet pretty unmade) plan is to travel an olive trail. From the newly planted grove I heard about on the radio in the UK I will trickle down through France to the olive growing regions, and cross the border to Italy, my mothers home. I will follow a golden road from grove to grove tasting the best of their oils, trying local recipes and collecting stories of the people involved in making this elixir of life.
Nb (Follow the yellow brick road is now going round and round in my head, “we’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of oil”. I’m like a modern age Dorothy, will I find brains, courage, love?)
This journey will take me back to my roots and will also give me a chance to share a layer of me with my two young boys that is somewhat hidden in our lives in England. I have failed Luca (7) and Marcus (5) they speak only a few phrases in Italian. We have visited my Italian family too infrequently in favour of long hauling to Asian outposts, discovering new adventures in exotic locations. The time to bring them back to earth, the rich fertile earth of the mother country is now.