For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe.
Years ago, I decided to ease into reducing my ecological footprint by choosing one thing that I use regularly and could purchase locally. I decided on olive oil which I used at most meals and had already become a self proclaimed connoisseur of various brands. I did a quick internet search and found Temecula Olive Oil which met my criteria of being within 50 miles, and where the olives were grown and processed in sustainable orchards.
After several years of ordering from their website, I made a pilgrimage to their store in Old Town Temecula across from a saloon. I grinned when I discovered hitching posts on Main Street. At the bar inside the store, I sampled varieties of olive oil, olive oil mixed with basil, and then mixed the olive oil with balsamics—my favorite being the Fresh Basil olive oil mixed with California Pomegranate vinegar.
Tip: Expert olive oil samplers eschew the bread cubes and sip the oil straight. Bread can alter the taste.
I’ve visited the Temecula Olive Oil ranch in Awanga multiple times, hand picked the fruit and observed olives milled onsite, the air pungent with the grassy scent of early harvest oil. No pesticides used—small dexter cows are sent through the rows to prune low hanging branches and fertilize the soil with their offal. The acidic pulp produced from processing the oil is used in weed abatement.
In my quarterly packages from the company, I receive bottles of freshly harvested oil—some grassy, sharp early reserve oils rich in anti-oxidants, others with the buttery flavors of late harvest. Some of the oil are limited editions—one an early harvest Gethsemane is still my favorite, produced from local trees grafted from those in Israel. If you’re in the store, please ask Tom to produce more of that oil—I haven’t seen it since that first bottle. Till then another limited edition Temecula Valley Blend is a reasonable substitute.
When I can’t make it to Temecula, I stop at a local store in Fullerton called Taste It which features olive oil and balsamic vinegars from the Mediterranean. The proprietor Tim Heide is usually on hand, no longer an engineer enslaved by aerospace, but living the dream seeded in the years he lived in Europe. Although not in my ecological footprint, I’ve fallen prey to his white balsamic vinegars, especially the bergamot orange/lime white. Ooh la la!
While in La Jolla researching Indelible Beats (the second Abishag novella), I discovered the We Olive shop and found their blackberry balsamic vinegar mixed with a Meyer lemon olive oil makes a wonderful breakfast salad dressing. The visit also inspired a scene in the novella.
Olive oil has been likened to unity between brothers or in another translation—harmony. Beyond its health benefits, I’ve actually measured improvements in strength before and after consuming olive oil. It’s the one thing I guarantee is on my plate breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Along with mindful eating and reducing my ecological footprint, I enjoy knowing the origins and the characters behind what sits in my pantry. Picking up an olive oil bottle or shaking drops of balsamic on a salad evokes these stories, harmonizing my meals sweetly.