Olive Market Memories with Carolyn O’Neil


As a kid I always liked olives, especially the really big black pitted olives because they fit right on the tips of your fingers which was an acceptable way to play with your food. But, then I discovered the real culinary wonder of olives.  I attended an Oldways conference in Morocco in 1994 along with historians, physicians from Harvard, nutrition researchers, cookbook authors, and a group of young U. S. chefs just beginning to work their way into food fame and fortune – including Todd English and Bobby Flay!  It was then, while hosting and producing a CNN On The Menu program on the health benefits of Mediterranean cuisines, that I toured an olive market in Casablanca with the ultimate olive impresario Fausto Luchetti, executive director of the International Olive Oil Council.

Like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie, we wound our way through crowded twisting streets to find an open-air alcove filled with long rows of huge wooden barrels. I had arrived at olive central! There must have been over fifty different kinds of olives to choose from including black, dark green, light green, golden, large ones, small ones, and then special preparations such as olives scented with lemon, spiced with red harissa, or colorful mixes of various olives.  Today, olive bars are part of the supermarket scenery from San Francisco to Syracuse.  But, every time I see a super selection of olives in a grocery store or on a restaurant menu my mind goes on the road to Morocco and the time Oldways introduced me to the joy of diversity in olives.

-Carolyn O’Neil

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