Nov 172011

Since I was a child, black olives heralded the winter holiday season. My parents, siblings, and I would go to my Grandma and Grandpa’s for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. The best part of each meal was the tray of raw vegetables and pickles. Each item was nestled in it’s own little scooped out slot.

In the kitchen, my Grandmother would open a can of pitted black California ripe olives, drain them, then put about half the can in the tray. She knew better than put the whole can in. I had devised many clever ways of sneaking the olives before any one else could enjoy some too.

This Sunday, California’s Butte County Historical Society is celebrating the 100th year of the home of the woman responsible for those lovely and delicious black olives I crave, Mrs. Freda Ehmann. Mrs. Ehmann started the olive canning industry in 1898 in Oroville, California and is known as the Mother of the California Ripe Olive.

The program begins at 2:00 pm, this Sunday, November 20, 2011. The lectures and tour of the home will cover stories about the Ehmann family and the Revival/Craftsman style of the home.

The home is located at 1480 Lincoln Street, Oroville, California, and is normally open for tours from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm on Saturdays. The tours are given by Alberta Tracy, who acts the part of a maid employed by the Ehmanns. For more information, call 530-533-9418.

May the sun shine through your branches.

Oct 272011

No one really knows where the olive tree originally came from, but here is the Olive Crazy version of it’s mythological beginnings.

One day a Phoenician guy, named Cecrops, was sailing past Greece and saw an attractive bit of land for sale. He thought to himself, “That’s some nice real estate. I’d like to build a city there.” He contacted the land agents at the Mount Olympus Real Estate Company and made a deal. Cecrops was now the new owner of a prime tract of sea-front property.

Cecrops worked hard on his new city. He made it very beautiful, but couldn’t come up with a suitable name. About that time, a couple of highly-competitive, local land agent super-stars, Athena and Poseidon, looked down from their elevated offices at the Mount Olympus Real Estate Company and were impressed. They wanted into the action. Maybe they could capitalize on some of those land development drachmas.

Cecrops, who was not a man to miss a public relations opportunity, devised a contest. The land agent who created the most useful gift for the citizens of his unnamed, beautiful city would get the city named after him or her, and as an extra bonus – all the resulting development rights.

When the other land agents at the Mount Olympus Real Estate Company got wind of the contest – they wanted a piece of the action too. Cecrops was thrilled and held a General Council where each land agent got a chance to compete. Each contestant came ready with handouts and laptop. Long speeches were given to accompanying PowerPoint presentations, but …

The General Council was a disaster. Most of the land agents were quickly bored or sleepy. One by one they slunk away and went back to the office. Cecrops kicked himself. He forgot. Land agents have notoriously short attention spans, since their diets consist of mostly booze and sugar.

At the end of the Council, Athena and Poseidon told Cecrops that they were still interested in competing, but it was too late. Cecrops had lapsed into a dark depression which not even his prescription of Eirene-il (the early Greek name for the Roman medication Pax-il) could correct.

About that time, Zeus, the owner of the Mount Olympus Real Estate Company, striking leader, ruthless entrepreneur, arch procreator, and known baby-eater, came to the rescue. In truth, Zeus thought that Cecrops was ruining his and his land agents’ chances of picking up some juicy development contracts. Cecrops got muscled out and Zeus took over.

Zeus took Athena and Poseidon aside and gave them their instructions. “You have one week to prepare your presentations. You have one minute to speak and if I see a single PowerPoint presentation you are immediately disqualified.” Athena and Poseidon were aghast.

“Well I never,” said Poseidon.

“Grumble, grumble, and you thought you had a headache before, old man,” muttered Athena under her breath.

For one week no one saw either Poseidon or Athena, but the citizens of the unnamed, beautiful city could hear a mighty racket coming from the Mount Olympus Real Estate Company. Finally the day of the contest arrived.

Zeus had a fancy gold chair set up for him and a slightly less fancy one set up for his sister-wife, Hera. The local populous was happy that Hera was attending the contest. Whenever she showed up, she made sure the event was catered. “That woman’s got some class,” a local rube was heard to remark at the buffet table.

Poseidon and Athena took their positions on a rocky outcropping where everyone could see them. Poseidon said, “ladies first,” but Athena declined with a smart-alecky, “age before beauty.” Poseidon was impatient and didn’t consider Athena’s remark worth addressing. Poseidon raised his mighty land-agent trident and struck the ground. Out of the rocks beneath his feet sprang a magnificent horse. The citizens were in awe. Poseidon was sure that with all that wonder and admiration directed toward his gift, he would surely win. Poseidon stood smirking and gloating.

Then, before the over-confident Poseidon could give his one minute narrative on the value of his fabulous gift, Athena struck. With a lift of her chin, an olive tree grew from beneath her feet. Poseidon laughed so hard he dried himself and the local populous guffawed.

Undeterred, the clever Athena gave her one minute presentation on the uses of the olive tree. “Out of this tree you receive wood for fire and building, fruit for food and fuel, and leaves for teas and medicines.”

The local skeptics were impressed, and so was Zeus. Athena won the prizes. Cecrops’ new town was named Athens for the clever and practical land agent, and Athena was awarded all the development contracts she wanted. Her first property development project was a temple to herself at the location of the contest.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Oct 052011

Here is the video of Georgia Olive Farms and the first commercial olive harvest in Georgia in several hundred years. It was filmed and produced by the Georgia Farm Bureau for their weekly television segment, the Georgia Farm Monitor.

May the sun shine through your branches.

Jul 282011

This is the first time, but it won’t be the last, when I feature a recipe that doesn’t have a drop of olive oil or a single olive in it. Why would Olive Crazy do that? I am honoring our Olive Crazy President Thomas Jefferson by presenting his favorite dessert – les ouefs a la neige (snow eggs).

When I visited Monticello, the tour guide told us many food facts about Thomas Jefferson: foods he imported and dishes he liked to eat. Les ouefs a la neige was a favorite when I was young. No one makes it anymore and since the 60’s I haven’t seen it on a menu.

I hope you will enjoy this, somewhat tedious to prepare but worth it, old-fashioned meringue and custard treat.

Les Ouefs a la Neige (Snow Eggs)

4 eggs – separate whites from yolks
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup white, granulated sugar
2 pinches salt

Pour milk into a double boiler and place on simmer.

Making the meringue: In a bowl, combine egg whites, and 1 pinch salt. Mix with electric mixer until stiff. Gradually mix in 3 tbsp sugar. Take a large spoonful of meringue and poach in simmering milk. One minute on each side. You can poach more than one at a time. Remove to paper towel.

Making the custard: In a heat-resistant bowl, combine all yolks with sugar (minus the 3 tbsp used in meringue), 1 pinch salt, and vanilla. Beat until smooth and pale-colored. Slowly stir warm milk into mix. Return to double boiler. Cook on simmer (DO NOT BOIL). Stir until custard thickens enough to coat a spoon. Remove from heat. Let cool.

Pour cooled custard into serving dishes. Place meringues on custard. Chill before serving.

A sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg is nice on top.

May the sun shine through your branches.