Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Red Lipstick of Cooking

I know that spring is coming because the olive trees have had their haircuts. The perrucchiere dei piantoni (hairdresser to the olive trees, as I call Gino), has been here and the girls all look very chic.

Because the goddess Athena planted the first olive tree and there are numerous women named Olivia in Italy, I have decided our trees are female, despite the fact that the Italian word for tree is albero (masculine) and the local name of olive trees is piantone (big plant), also masculine. This idea is not original; the Latin poets also thought of trees as feminine, but I suspect for different reasons.

I'm convinced our piantone are women because:

1) Who else but a woman would come up with such a skin care product as effective as olive oil?

2) They mark the seasons with fashion: a great haircut in spring, followed by a beauty treatment (fertilizer), lovely flowers in summer, curvy fruit in fall.

3) They wear only a flattering color, olive green; which has inspired vast armies, as well as legions of earth-tone driven interior designers. Plus,
those silvery leaves are really sexy in the breeze.

4) They show their age well -- I met a 1,500 year old olive tree the other day and she didn't look a day over 350. Plus, they become more interesting as they age, as all women should.

5) They can endure abuses -- wars, pestilence, being hit by Piero with the car* -- and still smile.

Lastly, and most important, they offer a product that I call the "red lipstick of cooking" -- pour a little olive oil in the leftover soup or in boring pasta and it covers a multitude of sins. I don't think I could live without either MAC's Retro in my purse or the jugs of EVOO we have stored in the cupboards.

All those beauty queens, when asked what th
ey would take to a desert island, are dead wrong -- they always answer "mascara" or "my mother." Uh-uh. Take along a bottle of extra virgin olive oil to rub on your skin, on your lips, in your hair. For dinner in the wild, EVOO makes fresh palm leaves palatable and is fabulous on raw fish (think carpaccio). If my mother comes along, I'll share.

*About Piero and the car and the olive tree. The tree won. She now leans a bit, but she is still going strong.
copyright Sharri Whiting Umbria Bella 2008

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