I have been spending some virtual time in the South of France learning about olives and olive oil. In her book An Olive Oil Tour of France , Alice Alech takes novices and enthusiasts (that’s me) behind the scenes of the French olive oil industry.
In France, unlike Spain and Italy, most producers are small and strive for quality over quantity and importantly preserving their heritage. In this book we meet some of the family run enterprises from the growers in Corsica, to the mill owners in Provence and even the soap makers from Marseille still using a cauldron to make the traditional olive oil soap. Alice also introduces The Olive Garden project where children have been involved in planting 400 trees, caring for them, harvesting and producing oil to take home, a very important project for future generations of olive growers.
We learn how to taste olive oil and like in wine how important that French phenomenon of terroir is (I love that word that basically means the influence soil and position have on the taste of grapes or olives). One of my regrets is that last time we were in Provence we didn’t stop at one of the mills to buy (or try) ‘real’ olive oil, but next time with Alice’s tasting notes to hand I will feel more confident to give it a go. Real olive oil tasting, for the experts, seems even more complex than wine tasting and includes something called the ‘retro nasal sensation’ – I bet you didn’t know that did you?
I love France and since moving here my relationship with food has changed for the better and I consider myself fairly knowledgeable when it comes to the French way of healthy eating, but this book still taught me new things. It is a good mix of informative but without going too deep in a way that would make the average enthusiast switch off. Alice also includes some recipes in the book, both edible ones and beauty ones that highlight the olive oil benefits to our hair and skin. I will be giving the hair conditioning treatment a try. As you would expect the food recipes are all very Mediterranean but they are not exclusively Provencal. One of my favourites was a savoury ‘apero’ cake with rosé wine in the ingredients list, now that is my kind of cake.
Thank you for contacting me and offering me a copy of this book Alice, it has been a very enjoyable journey. For the moment this is an ebook only, but at a price of £1.94 it is very good value. A paperback version should be available before Christmas.