Saturday, October 8, 2011

On Olives

Reading the free teaser issue of Cook's Illustrated in bed last night (you got me.  I am going to get a subscription- not only is it wordy and food science nerdy, it's free of advertisements) I came across this in a taste test of black olives:

After ruling out canned black "California" olives (which are really green olives colored black with a chemical additive..."

Pardon?  The beloved black chewy somewhat flavorless ovoids, the can I would volunteer to open so I could swipe a few before they reached their salad destination?  FAKE?  DOCTORED?  With a chemical additive?

For years I maintained I only liked black olives and then was pretty smug as my palate gained sophistication and a love of green olives.  And it turns out I liked green, treated olives all along!

So what is this ominous, Erin Brockovich-sounding "chemical additive"?

                                          FERROUS SULFATE

When you read its list of uses in manufacturing and industry, you begin to wonder, should I be eating this?

                       But it has a wide range of application, including medicinal.  :)

So all's well.  Canned black olives still have no flavor though.... they'll have to add another chemical to fix that.

                                                       OLIVE ASIDE

“The whole Mediterranean, the sculpture, the palm, the gold beads, the bearded heroes, the wine, the ideas, the ships, the moonlight, the winged gorgons, the bronze men, the philosophers -all of it seems to rise in the sour, pungent taste of these black olives between the teeth. A taste older than meat, older than wine. A taste as old as cold water.”
           Lawrence Durrel, ‘Prospero's Cell’ (1945)

               This is a picture I took of a 2500 year old (!) olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane (Assyrian: oil press) during a trip last year that included Jerusalem.

Jenny, Quenby and I in the garden

Junk for sale outside the garden (photo courtesy of Jenny... this is the look blondes get all over the Middle East)


  1. The olive thing is upsetting but does not freak me out nearly as much as your Fb friend's article on orange juice.

  2. Orange juice... FAKE! I am reminded of the Michael Pollan motto: Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.