Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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The fruit of the olive tree, Olea europaea, and the oil which it yields (see olive oil), foods which originated in the Mediterranean region, are often thought of as symbolizing it.

The importance of the olive tree and the veneration which it has aroused since prehistoric times are widely attested, for example by the use of the olive branch as a symbol for peace. Biblical, classical, and other literary references abound. Lawrence Durrell wrote in Prospero’s Cell that the whole Mediterranean ‘seems to rise in the sour, pungent taste of these black olives between the teeth. A taste older than meat, older than wine.’