In a restaurant on the island of Mallorca, a small saucer might be put on your table before the menu arrives and before you even make your choices for the meal you are going to want to eat. You might mistake that small plate for an ashtray. Not so funny if you don’t smoke, or, as the new anti-smoking laws in Spain would have it, are not allowed to smoke. You push the small plate to the edge of the table.
Now some unsalted bread arrives. You might be surprised when, at the same time, the saucer is being placed in front of you, again, and a generous helping of pure virgin olive oil is being poured into the small bowl.
The idea is that you are encouraged by the friendly restaurant people to awaken your taste buds for the culinary delights still to come.
You dip some of the bread into the olive oil. You may not have thought of tasting olive oil on its own, ever before, but hey, why not?
Hmm, this tastes good. Your taste buds actually like the stuff.
I’ve been to a very nice Mallorcan restaurant, a while ago, where three different types of olive oil where being offered in three small compartments of a molded, longish glass-plate. They all tasted of oil, yes, but each one had a distinctive taste, a slightly different colour and a varying consistency.
What you see is not what you get, here. You get much more than what you see. You get some medicinal virtues for your heart, and for your blood, and for your digestive system, as well as the delicious taste.
Ok. To start with, I live in Spain. Spain is a country that borders on the Mediterranean Sea, and it was here, possibly in Greece or on the Greek island of Crete, where olive oil was first invented, let’s say, 6,000 years ago. An estimated 900 million olive trees are currently cultivated worldwide, with about 95 % in the Mediterranean region. Some of them are right outside our front door. Well, almost.
Olive oil is a prime component of the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil is a natural juice which preserves the taste, aroma, vitamins and properties of the olive fruit. Olive oil is the only vegetable oil that can be consumed as it is – freshly pressed from the fruit. And it is so healthy it might make you want to move straight here, to the Mediterranean Sea.
The greatest exponent of monounsaturated fat is olive oil. And we all know that monounsaturated fat is widely regarded as being protective against cardiovascular disease. And a report was just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in August 2007, claiming that olive oil is rich in phenols, substances that are thought to have beneficial effects on the heart. Phenols may help ward off harmful blood clots in people with high levels of cholesterol, according to reports published there by Spanish researchers.
Now, you may not like the idea of drinking the stuff in its pure form and shape or, simply, dipping some dry bread into some oil. The good news is, that you don’t have to. Just buy a bottle of some good quality olive oil, and add it to your normal cooking habits. If you eat a salad, add some extra-virgin olive oil which comes from the first pressing of the olives. It doesn’t have to be Mallorcan or Spanish. Good if it was, but not necessarily. The Italians and the Greek do some fine stuff as well. Why not check your local Delicatessen and see what they have on offer?
Your children might inherit your legacy a few years later but, what the heck. You might have a bit of fun, a little longer. It’s almost like a non-prescription Viagra.
One of the best olive oils anywhere is Made in Mallorca. Aubocassa is made of 100 % arbequina olives. It is produced on the eastern side of Mallorca, near where I live, on an ancient estate that cultivates about 8,000 olive trees. It takes over 9 kgs to produce 1 litre of this rich buttery oil. Aubocassa retails at about 13 € per 500 ml bottle. It’s worth every penny.