Friday, December 23, 2011

Olive oil, politicians and vegetable oil-- the uncommon thread.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, I found myself having to prepare an hors d’ouevre for a party. I rummaged through the recipe book and found a likely candidate. The list of ingredients included Virginian Olive oil.

The word Virginian is an interesting word. It comes from the words virgin and Ian. Ian is the Scottish equivalent of the name John. Therefore, Virginian or virgin Ian, is a variant of virgin John, or John Virgin, who is most notably mentioned in the first stanza, third line, of "Silent Night" where it is sung, "round John Virgin, mother and child.”
While it is interesting to note the hysterical roots of the word Virginian, I was more interested to find out that Virginia was a major producer of olive oil. I knew olive trees were prolific in the Mediterranean, but had no idea they were prevalent in Virginia. Consulting a map, I discovered that Athens, Greece and Richmond, Virginia are at very similar latitudes, thereby explaining why olive trees grow so well in both places.

Before this, I only knew that Virginia produced tobacco and presidents (William Harrison, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Tyler, Woodrow Wilson, Robert E. Lee—who was not a president but wanted to be, and George Washington). There is the famous story of George Washington chopping down his father’s cherry tree. Which causes me to wonder, was it really a cherry tree that he chopped down, or was it actually an olive tree? This is also the first record of a politician “stumping”. In this case, Washington could not tell a lie, but confessed to his escapade, in turning his father’s olive tree into a stump. Now, while stumping, politicians take just the opposite tack and cannot seem to tell the truth.

Getting back to olive oil, I rummaged through the cupboards and pantry, searching for the Virginian olive oil that the recipe called for. That is when it caught my eye-- a bottle of olive oil; not just any olive oil, but Virginian olive oil, and not just Virginian olive oil, but “Extra” Virginian olive oil. Apparently, my beautiful, intelligent, thrifty wife had not just found olive oil, but found surplus Virginian olive oil, being marketed as “Extra”, since that fine state produces so much.

A final note about cooking with olive oil; Confine its usage to light applications-- such as dressings and the like. If you want to fry something, use vegetable oil. The amazing thing about vegetable oil is a vegetable and it passes that vegetarianism onto whatever it fries: Fried chicken—now a vegetable, doughnuts (which my grandfather always referred to as fry cakes)—a vegetable, fried twinkies—a vegetable. Great stuff...right?

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