The Blessings of Olive Oil
What's been around for 4,000 years, has dozens of uses but didn't really make a serious splash in Western countries until the last 50 years? Hint: it comes from trees that can grow to be centuries old and in Mediterranean cultures it's as romantic as wine.
Yep, olive oil -- a celebrated fluid derived from a meticulous process that fuels debate among its producers, 99 percent of which are on the rim of the Mediterranean, as to which is best. Most olive oil consumed in the United States comes from Italy, but Greece, where olive trees were first grown, boasts the highest per-capita use. Spain completes the olive oil Big Three.
Recent studies found that olive oil is healthy -- it contains no cholesterol but lots of Vitamin E, monounsaturated fats (the good ones) and antioxidants -- folks in Mediterranean nations have the least heart trouble of any Western culture.
But after many thousands of years, humans have respected olive oil so much they count on it for other things besides food. Babies are anointed with it at baptism, squeaky hinges are silenced by it and foods are preserved in it, often for years.