Lawrence Durrell’s precise metaphor is the clearest description of the taste of olives that I have ever heard or read. In truth, he was speaking of the wrinkly, black, salt cured olives whose flavour is as naked and unashamed as a new born and not at all that of the plump aromatically enhanced varieties which are more Kardashian than Kalamata. However, staying with the previously stated theme of truthfulness, I declare myself unashamedly in favour of flavour. Occasionally I catch a fleeting mental image reflected on a shard of a memory which has me enjoying those same black olives with a glass of retsina in the shade of a dark tree by blue sea but my more recent and tangible memories of them are ambivalent. Maybe a flavour as clear as that does not travel well…or at all. I have heard of asparagus fanciers who will take a small portable stove into the asparagus patch in order to cook and and enjoy the full unadulterated taste of the fresh stems before fugitive flavour begins its slowly accelerating dilution of that intended savour. It is said by those who have enjoyed the pleasure that the only echte truite bleue ( a grouping of words that goes some way to define a united Europe, if only gastronomically at this point) is the one cooked direct from the hook by the side of the gurgling chalk stream from which it has been presently plucked. There is to my mind another form of fugitive flavour which decrees that some foods, when eaten for the second time out of geographical or climatic context, fail to ignite the synapses with the remembered pleasure and delight of that first mouthwatering experience.
The olives in the pictures, which were harvested from the trees in our garden and preserved in our kitchen, have not as yet suffered from that particular concept or, more precisely, my pleasure in their flavour is that of the asparagus fancier crouched by his rows of thrusting asparagus….on reflection, a nerve wracking position that I do not have to assume when enjoying an olive maison.