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Easter, Springtime Celebrations and Olive Oil

 
By Caroline J. Beck
04/22/2011

Easter is a holiday celebrated around the world and olive oil has been a special part of that celebration for centuries. It plays a role in long-held traditions in many Mediterranean countries, representing renewed life and peace. Because it is such an integral part of the Mediterranean diet, it’s natural to assume that olive oil is frequently and generously included in all holiday preparations. But, surprisingly, in some countries, the use of olive oil is restricted during the season.

In Greece, consumption of olive oil is higher than anywhere else on the planet – in fact, it is consumed at a rate of almost 26 liters per person, per year; or almost double that of Spain and Italy. But it’s interesting to note that the use of olive oil, among members of the Greek Orthodox faith, is restricted during the Lenten season leading up to Easter, and especially during Holy Week, where olive oil is not allowed to be a part of the diet.

In Italy, on the Sunday before Easter, known as Palm Sunday, many churches are filled with baskets of palms and olive branches, waiting for a blessing by the priest, before being handed out to members of the congregation. When Easter Sunday arrives, you can be sure that almost every dish on the table is laced with the very best extra virgin olive oil.

If you spend time in Spain during the feast of Easter Sunday, it’s likely that you’ll enjoy their very popular version of “French toast”. Spaniards call it “torrijas”, where warm bread is sliced and soaked in milk, sugar, and eggs before being fried in fresh extra virgin olive oil.

I recall from my own childhood, a springtime tradition of preserving eggs by coating them in a thin layer of olive oil. I found a similar reference in The Scientific American Cyclopedia of Formulas, by Albert Allis Hopkins, published in 1913 by Scientific American. There is no guarantee that this will stand up to today’s health standards, but it’s an interesting approach to preserving freshness in eggs - at least for those eggs that don’t end up being colored and hidden all over the house.

    “A French authority gives the following: Melt 4oz of clear beeswax in a porcelain dish over a gentle fire, and stir in 8oz of olive oil. Let the resulting solution of wax in oil cool somewhat, then dip the fresh eggs, one by one, into it, so as to coat every part of the shell. A momentary dip is sufficient, all excess being wiped off with a cotton cloth. The oil is absorbed in the shell, the wax hermetically losing all the pores. It is claimed that eggs thus treated and packed away in powdered charcoal, in a cool place, have been found after 2 years as fresh and palatable as when newly laid.” – Albert Allis Hopkins

Whatever ways you find to celebrate Easter and the coming of springtime abundance, make sure to include your very best extra virgin olive oil in your own holiday traditions. It is sure to grace your life with health and happiness.