It is hand-picked, cold pressed from a single varietal and worth every penny (and that is a big pile of pennies.) My taste buds know that it is delicious. It tastes of sunshine, grass, and artichokes. But after a morning of reading I now know why so many other oils taste like… oil, while others are the elixir of the gods.
My lazy Sunday read has reminded me that there is great food writing that recognizes how process, whether it be growing, cooking or eating can be life(style) changing.
Listening to “Blood, Bones and Butter” by Gabrielle Hamilton on several long car trips this summer transported me to Italy. The Interstate signs disappeared as I saw and smelled the kitchens described in the book. Once back home, Gabrielle’s gritty voice inspired me to (unsuccessfully) grow puntarelle in my garden this summer. While the actual plant grew perfectly well, I was faced with an impossible reality – I had no clue how to harvest the plant and force it to produce the crunchy shoots that make this variety of chicory so deliciously irreplaceable. I sautéed the bitter leaves and they were…ok. If anyone has any clue, please let me know – I have the seeds safely stored in case I try again next year.
Another few hundred miles led me to listen to “The School of Essential Ingredients” by Erica Bauermeister. It is a story about life, people, and the magic of food. The book follows the lives of eight students who meet weekly for a cooking class. That doesn’t sound promising, I know, but soon you see that each student is looking for more than recipes, and they are taught by a woman who is complicated enough to understand the power of food.
My bedside reading this week is “52 Loaves, a Half-Baked Adventure” by William Alexander. In his own words, it is “My take on the six-thousand-year-old staple of life, 52 Loaves explores the nature of obsession, the meditative quality of ritual, the futility of trying to re-create something perfect, our deep connection to the earth, and the mysterious instinct that makes every person on the planet, no matter their culture or society, respond to the aroma of baking bread.” For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know that I’m a “breadie” and this book is right up my alley.
Enough writing for now, I’m eager to learn more about the “sublime and scandalous world of olive oil”. I will share my knowledge in the days to come. In the meantime, here is an image of how food and words sometimes don’t work.