During our stay in the French region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, we really enjoyed our visit to the Ecomuseum “L’Olivier”, located in Volx. This museum offers an excellent inside look at all things olives and olive oil. This museum is full of valuable information; we want to share with you a couple of interesting things that we learnt there.
Olive oil has been used as a cosmetic since ancient times. The athletes covered their skin in olive oil to protect it, and even Homer referred to olive oil only as something that was used as an ointment, medication and even perfumes! The Egyptians soaked roses, lotus, iris flowers, myrrh, cinnamon or other aromatic substances in olive oil. They added salt to this mix to keep it longer and they obtained wonderful fragrances!
We all have used Marseilles’ soap before, or at least we have heard of it. But who knows that the recipe for preparing came from Syria? (where it had been prepared since the 8th Century). It arrived to France from thanks to the Crusades. In the 17th Century there were even laws that stated that this wonderful soap could only be made using olive oil. Nevertheless, since the 19th century, this soap does not even have to be prepared with olive oil, but can be done with any vegetable oil (72% content of the soap), and Marseilles’ soap does not have a Protected Designation of Origin. However, all over in the Mediterranean region, people still produce soap with olive oil, and really good cosmetic brands only use the best extra virgin olive oils in their products.
One of the surprising uses of olive oil has been and still is finding if somebody has been the victim of an evil eye. Olive oil drops have to been poured in water, and depending on how these drops float, the person will receive diverse treatments; then the water with the oil has to be used to water a flowering plant. The experts that “read” these signs have to be trained and follow many rites before being ordained as “readers”.
Definitely, the highlight of our visit was having the chance to delight our palates by tasting the delicious mouthwatering dishes that are available in “Les Petites Tables”, the Ecomuseum’s charming restaurant. All these wonderful bites are prepared with seasonal local organic ingredients, and you can taste the passion and love that go into each one of them.