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Praised for centuries as both an ailment-curing liquid gold and a simple foundation for many cuisines, olive oil is one of the most essential ingredients in the Mediterranean and beyond. This photo essay pays tribute to the enduring fruit that gives so many cultures reasons to gather and enjoy meals together.

My childhood friend’s Cyprus-born grandfather once recalled an old adage as we ran among the olive trees at her family’s farm: “If you fall asleep under a fig tree, you get a headache,” he said. “But if you fall asleep under an olive tree, you dream.”

Olives have long been the fruit of visionaries and dreamers, ever since Athena stood over Athens with a peaceful olive branch in hand. Long before it became a staple in modern pantries, olive oil was exalted in ancient religious texts: It’s one of the first foods mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, Muhammad deemed olive trees holy in the Koran, it’s daubed on baptized heads in Judeo-Christian tradition and its branches were found in the Tutankhamen tomb to protect the

  • Words:
    Sarah Baird
  • Photography:
    Nicole Franzen

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  • Words:
    Sarah Baird
  • Photography:
    Nicole Franzen
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