By Mia Berman
There’s Olive Oyl, (Popeye’s girlfriend); Olive Garden; olive tree; olive branch. And then there’s the olive.
Let’s face it—the world is divided. We see mounting violence—from guns on city streets to mayhem in Gaza. We’re weary about what’s woke, inundated with infrastructure, and submerged with cyberhacking. We’re exhausted by cartels, cancel culture, and COVID. We’re arguing about prison reform, defunding the police, catch and release, and reopening schools. We’re barraged with international crises, from border crossings to Middle East missiles. We’re overwhelmed by inflation and immigration, and crave de-escalation. With all this global talk about civility and hostility, methinks we need a completely new approach.
Call it OLIVE-ILITY. Enough politics. Let’s go with something radical yet international—like olives. Yup. You heard me. Olives. And not just for martinis.
Forget bitcoin, SpaceX, and electric cars. Now that the G7 summit and French Open are over, and Harry and Meghan are done venting, we need something to bring us all back together—not in competition, but in camaraderie.
Consider the facts. The International Olive Council estimates that over 139 olive varieties are grown in 23 countries world-wide. The olive branch is an ancient offering of peace. In Genesis, the dove came to Noah after the flood with an olive leaf in its mouth. Olives even enhance global wellness—they are an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, important fatty acids, natural antioxidants, and iron.
Even James Bond switched over from the lemon twist to an olive-garnished martini since his early “shaken not stirred” days. In the film Spectre, 007 selected a muddled Sicilian green olive.
Summer is olive-growing season. We just celebrated National Olive Day, and August is National Olive Oil Month. Maybe we could all use a tiny bit of whatever it is that seems to unite more than 25 countries around the globe—olives. Perhaps we could solve the Middle East crisis with the simple little oval olive—black or green. Or even establish an OLIVE peace treaty. Frenemies like Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, and Syria are all on the list of top 20 producers.
The origin of National Olive Day, you ask? Phil Meldrum founded FOODMatch 25 years ago to bring artisanal Mediterranean foods to the American market, to preserve centuries-old traditions, and to enhance our quality of life. His mission was to deliver the authentic flavor of olives across the oceans, so that when Americans taste the olives they feel as if they are actually in the Mediterranean.
According to Brandon Gross, FOODMatch’s VP of marketing, “The Mediterranean lifestyle is one of balance and moderation…olives are an iconic part of the heritage and culture of the region.” Phil and Brandon are like Mediterranean food minstrels, spreading the word of the rich traditions of growing, harvesting, and curing olives.
Even the biological classification of the olive is a unifying lesson for humanity. Regardless of mankind’s countless nationalities, races, and cultures, we are all one: Homo sapiens. Ditto for the olive. Despite the hundreds of varieties, flavors and colors, they all stem from the same olive tree species, Olea Eurpoaea. We are the world—the World of the Olive.
Olives abound in ancient history and modern culture. Goddess Minerva had an olive branch in her hand, and as she was the goddess of wisdom she must have known something. The UN flag waves a crown of olive branches. The winners of the Olympic games were crowned with olive branches. And…the Tutankhamun tomb contained assorted crowns with olive branches.
Artists and poets have been using the olive muse for centuries. Homer and Virgil revered it. Pablo Neruda wrote about it in his Ode to Olive Oil.
“Among the good things of the earth I set apart olive oil, your ever-flowing peace, your green essence, your heaped-up treasure which descends in streams from the olive tree.”
Suffering artist Van Gogh painted his beloved olive grove 18 times. Those olive trees were his salvation.
And finally, how could we not cherish the olive…and bring the world together. After all, it contains the word love.