Olives, pungent, demanding, a taste acquired.
Their beauty belying their bitterness, their hardness.
Sunshine and human hands transform tartness into fragrant fruit and nectared oil — fare of peasants, armies, kings, and saints.
From ancient, twisted roots comes timeless provender, oily, meaty, food until long journeys’ end.
Spread out under the vast sky, waiting for the signs
That signal harvest, a reaping of first fruits
Beaten with sticks or prodded with hooks, the branches weep their bounty, tumbled to earth, soothed in soft nets
Then the curing, the metamorphosis, the green …
And the black …
But the most profound union comes with the clash of stone on flesh, rasping, shredding, a grinding down and a becoming,
Golden green oil poured out
And fire, too, the oven scorching the bits of olive protruding from darkened crusts of bread, for breaking, for sharing, for celebrating the gifts of field and cooking pot.
Tiny tastes, whipped up with a strong arm and knife, spooned onto bread, drenched in fragrant oil, drunk with blood-red wine, the trinity of civilization miraculously feeding us still,
Take, too, the flesh of fowl and mix it with pungent olive meat, creating desert and wadi in each bite …
The olive, in the circle of life, the cycle of seasons,
the passing of years, a taste older than meat, older than wine, precious as gold.
Like all food, a product of both violence and love.
TAPENADE OF GREEN AND BLACK OLIVES
1 cup Kalamata olives, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup green olives, drained and coarsely chopped
1 T. capers, drained
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 flat anchovy fillets, finely minced
1 T. fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 T. fresh lemon juice
2 – 3 T. fruity extra-virgin olive oil
Put olives, capers, garlic, and anchovies in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixed. Place the olive mixture in a mixing bowl. Stir in the oregano, lemon juice, and olive oil; mix until paste-like. Serve on toast points, as a pasta sauce, with crudités, or as a seasoning for steamed vegetables.
The earth resides in the food we eat … and therefore in us.
© 2011 C. Bertelsen