I am often asked how I became interested in olive oil. My answers were captured at one of my book signings: An Evening with Carol Firenze. But I must admit, it was definitely love at first bite, when I tasted my first olive as a child – the flavor so delicious, the texture so unique and the pitted size so perfect…contributing to the playful nature of the olive, as I placed one on each finger and sequentially popped them in my mouth. It’s true. I’ve always loved olives and olive oil. Growing up in an Italian-American family, olives and olive oil played a central role in my life. I remember hearing stories from my grandfather, who during the depression years, would save money for weeks in order to buy that gallon of olive oil. Nonno Vincenzo would puncher a small hole at the top of the tin (with an ice pick) to enable the steady stream of olive oil for drizzling on salads, vegetables, meat, chicken and just about everything consumed. However, that small puncher also cautioned the family to revere this liquid gold and use it sparingly.
I must admit I don’t use olive oil sparingly. I use it for anything and everything. It is my passion. My love affair with olive oil has led to my endless study of the subject. To me, the history of Western Civilization mirrors the history of the olive tree – whether discussing the history of commerce, health and medicine, beautification, rituals or culinary practices. In fact, no other plant, with the possible exception of the grape vine, has the magical, mystical, and most influential impact on history than the olive tree.