A Taste Sweeter Than Meat, More Ancient Than Wine

Olives, pungent, demanding, a taste acquired.

Their beauty belying their bitterness, their hardness.

Photo credit: Giulia Gasparro

Sunshine and human hands transform tartness into fragrant fruit and nectared oil — fare of  peasants, armies, kings, and saints.

Photo credit: fdecomite

From ancient, twisted roots comes timeless provender, oily, meaty, food until long journeys’ end.

Photo credit: Dario Dado

Spread out under the vast sky, waiting for the signs

Photo credit: Theophilos Papadopoulos

That signal harvest, a reaping of first fruits

Photo credit: Peter Firminger

Beaten with sticks or prodded with hooks, the branches weep their bounty, tumbled to earth, soothed in soft nets

Photo credit: Sean O'Casaidhe

Then the curing, the metamorphosis, the green …

Photo credit: Vaguely Artistic

And the black …

Photo credit: Trisha, Cooking Like I Mean It

But the most profound union comes with the clash of stone on flesh, rasping, shredding, a grinding down and a becoming,

Photo credit: Justin Garland

Golden green oil poured out

Photo credit: Sara Maino

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.

Photo credit: Greg Wagoner

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,

Photo credit: Emily

Take, too, the flesh of fowl and mix it with pungent olive meat, creating desert and wadi in each bite …

Photo credit: Girl Interrupted Eating

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.


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.

Photo credit: Trisha, Cooking Like I Mean It

The earth resides in the food we eat … and therefore in us.

© 2011 C. Bertelsen

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