*Article published in CaFleureBon. Photos, editing, and collages by me.
The sky, blue with cicadas
And the hard earth
Of the olives
With their constellations, the foliage:
The olive oil.” – Ode to Olive Oil. Poem fragment by Pablo Neruda
Distilled and shined upon by hundreds of oily hands pulling its might and thus moving the world, the lever sat, satiated, and looked around. For what’s a lever to do when its job is done? Thick and hardened like the hands under which it bent, amplifying the muscle, forever rotating on a point on itself. The simple, the satisfied, the unperfectable lever.
Wall art made of old oil pressing treaty. Photo and editing by dana
To make olive oil, ancient inventors (heavy with brains and easy with tools) devised presses made of wood and stone; grinding rock would slide upon grinding rock in a circle, crushing the olives and spraying bitter juices. Soft, precious pulp would mound in gentle cannelures on the stone; tender hands would carry it out of the mill and into churning pots where oil—stirred out of the pulp with hot water—would reliably do what oil does in water, and separate.
Going to work. Still on Tuscan life by dana
The workers, sour with sweat and humbled by the effort, would then gather around the pots to stare into the green with touchy eyes and hungry hands, as mankinds always do when the profane births the sacred. Then, with reverence, they’d scoop the tears of the gods.
Boboli gardens in the heart of Florence, a place for the gods. Photo by dana
The flesh would be sieved and gathered, again with breaths drawn, still raw but slightly more plebeian—for it’s the second press that yields the familiar. Set in wide baskets, the pulp gets stacked; another lever makes a moving rock screw down, pressing the baskets against a hard stone beneath to make the only oil the laborer knows: the fat that makes his kids’ skin glisten; the fire in his lamp; the fasting food when, tired, all poor gather around the table and, with a bit of salt, they dip.
Olive branch arrangement and photo by dana
Anfas Sa’adah by Cristian Carbonnel opens hard and heavy, raw, vegetal, and still warm like a basketcase of dusty olives. There’s floralcy there, but only in context- for neither the neroli, nor the ylang speak out individually; rather, they mutedly support a tonka so spicy and hot that it starts bitter…in the best way. In fact, the head is so pungent, it’s brash: the sandal notes come through slightly sour, the pine is zingy, the cedar–strong; and, over all, a tarry subtone that creates tension and increases pressure—as if the smell swells, menacing to short-circuit.
But then, instead of popping, it oozes life.
What follows is smooth and strangely addictive: an irisy violet twists ith hesperidic zest, terpenic accords blend with creamy fruits, and delicate green flowers get leverage through a discrete musk; underneath it all, a smoky and still coumaric vanilla vibrates earthily, warmly, and comfortably organic.
Self-portrait in Tuscany. Photo and treatment by dana
The result is primordially edible, physically intimate, and as uplifting as an Italian September.