I was so very impressed by Czeslaw Milosz’s book Milosz’s ABC’s. There, in the form of a brief and alphabetically-ordered personal encyclopedia, was the story of the life of a Nobel Prize winning poet, of the people, places, and things that meant the most to him. Because his origins were so far away (Lithuania and Poland) and so long ago (1920s and 1930s), there were relatively few entries that resonated personally with me. Except it was sad to see so many fascinating people who, unknown today, died during the war under unknown circumstances.
My own ABCs consist of places I have loved (Iceland), things I feared (Earthquakes), writers I have admired (Chesterton, Balzac, Proust, and Borges); things associated with my past life (Cleveland and Dartmouth College), people who have influenced me (John F. Kennedy), and things I love to do (Automobiles and Books). This blog entry is my own humble attempt to imitate a writer whom I have read on and off for thirty years without having sated my curiosity. Consequently, over the months to come, you will see a number of postings under the heading “Tarnmoor’s ABCs” that will attempt to do for my life what Milosz accomplished for his. To see my other entries under this category, hit the tag below marked “ABCs”. I don’t guarantee that I will use up all 26 letters of the alphabet, but I’ll do my best. Today the letter is “O” for Olives.
In his Meditations the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Always observe how ephemeral and worthless human things are. Pass then through this little space of time conformably to nature, and end thy journey in content, just as an olive falls off when it is ripe, blessing nature who produced it, and thanking the tree on which it grew.”
There is something ancient about the olive. It comes to us from the Biblical lands of the Eastern Mediterranean, from ancient Greece and Rome. If it were not for the fact that I live in California, which is known for its olives, I would probably have left it out of my diet altogether. Especially during the Dog Days of Summer, I find olives refreshing, such that I can make a meal out of olives and iced tea, and nothing else. It’s one of the few filling foods that are not contraindicated by my diabetes.
My favorite olives come from Cisneros Brothers in Hanford, California, particularly their Sicilian garlic-stuffed olives: big green fruits with a spicy garlic charge. When the days start getting warmer, I will either drive to Hanford or order a crate of them to see me through.
There are numerous health claims made for olives, about their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities, and they may be true. Perhaps they cure cancer and powerfully increase male libido, but, truth to tell, I’d like them anyhow. I like them so much I even take an olive leaf nutritional supplement called oleuropein for good measure.