Let’ s read a myth about Athens and some real information about Greek olive oil!
Once upon a time, when old Greek stories where still daily reality, the megalopolis Athens was only a village waiting to spread its wings. In those days people where still humble enough to understand that not everything was in their own hands. And so they turned to the Gods to ask them for a specific God. A god, who could guide, protect and feed them with a spirit to give sense to their life’s and deeds, in whose name a city could be build. The Gods took this request very seriously and after careful consideration Zeus decided, with a feeling of democracy, to let the people choose themselves. So two candidates came down from the Olympus and had to face each other in a competition to win the hearts and souls of the mortals. And like politicians are doing nowadays, they tried to convince their audience with their offers for the society.
It was Poseidon, God of the seas, brother of Zeus,who put his triton into the rock of what later would become the Acropolis and made a spring happily flow its water. Probably because his power was first of all related to the sea, the gift was not sweet, but salted. Athena, Goddess of wisdom, justice and war put her spear into the rock. Immediately an olive grow started to grow. This gift was gratefully accepted by the people of Athens and became a spring of a fluid, which Greeks since then cannot do without: the elixir of health and the golden touch to the Greek cuisine, the oil of olives.
A basic ingredient of Greek society
Since then, olives and olive oil probably became one of the most stable ingredients of the Greek society. Old Gods disappeared, a new one arose, glorious days passed as well as periods of misery, temples became ruins or transformed into churches, democracy became dictatorship and again democracy, borders were changing, war and peace were challenging each other, but in the meanwhile the roots of the olive tree got deeper and deeper into Greek soil, living happily ever after.
And so every year between half of November and half of January people disappear into the fields to collect their small black and green treasures. In the country-side, where the work is done, villages fall into silence. The only sound heard is the whispering from the valleys and the yards, where the news about the harvest is exchanged. For centuries, the methods of collecting have hardly changed. Although nowadays machines are available, most of the (small) farmers prefer collecting with a comb or a wooden stick in order not to harm the trees and the leaves. Most families cultivate just enough trees for their own consumption and for their relatives who live in the cities. But still, in Greece the average consumption a year is over 30 litres a person. For a family of ten persons (300 litres) this requires about 125 trees, counting on a good year. No wonder wherever you travel in Greece, you will find these beloved trees, with their artistic trunks and silver sparkling leaves.
Small agriculture doesn’t leave a lot of space for export. This is probably one of the reasons the Greek olive oil is relatively unknown abroad. However, in international contests the Greek oil is highly approved. It has a pure and honest taste, mainly because the oil is not mixed like a lot of Italian oils, especially those of the big brands. Another reason might be the lack of chemicals and artificialities used for cultivation. Not bothering about official certificates for biological and organic products according to European standards, most of the Greek olive oil has a natural origin by itself. This certainly has an influence on the taste. With a world opening up for healthy food and Greece getting ready for a market beyond its own borders, little by little things are now changing. Smaller and bigger initiatives now export the Greek oil not only to Northern and Western European countries, but also to Asia, especially Japan, where oil is a substantial part of the local kitchen.
And so, after all these years, the choice for Athena’s gift, has still a growing influence. It happened to be a wise decision. Do not worry about the Poseidon: he lost the contest but the citizens of Athens never forgot him! The God of the Sea got his own temple in Sounion. Only 50 km from the Omilo school, many of you have visited this temple of Poseidon and witnessed the most amazing sunsets or full-moons! If you didn´t, it´s certainly worth to put it on your list with “amazing-places-to-visit-in-Greece-”!