“Partes humani cultus necessariae vinum ... atque oleum olivarum” is as meaningful today as it was in ancient Rome. What, you weren’t a Latin major? Let me translate for you: “The necessary ingredients of civilization are wine and … olive oil.”
Olive oil and wine happen to be two of my favorite topics, both to drink and to discuss. Sharing a similar history, wine and olive oil were vital commodities of the ancient world and were (and still are) celebrated for their symbolic meanings – grapes as symbols of life and renewal and olive trees as symbols of longevity and health. These agricultural accomplices both originated in the same area of Asia Minor and spread throughout the Mediterranean. Olive oil and wine, both considered “gifts of the gods,” found their way into religious observances and today are icons of Mediterranean living.
Earthly gifts with such celestial origins deserve special treatment and respect. Wine and olive oil are similar in this regard. For example, choosing and storing olive oil is a bit like choosing and storing wine. Not all wines are alike! And like wine, olive oil takes on the characteristics of its terroir and ranges widely in quality and flavor. There are other similarities between them and one major difference.
How are wine and olive oil alike?