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Too Much of a Good Thing?

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Too Much of a Good Thing?

When health food isn’t always healthy.
Dayna  Macy
Dayna Macy More by this author
Mar 02, 2012 at 09:00 AM

Rarely have I met an olive I didn’t like, or at least respect. I love everything about them: their delicious vitamin-filled flesh; their sensual oval shape; the astonishing variety. They are the king of my cravings. And as such they do not last the night in our refrigerator.

And though I’ve learned a lot about harvesting and curing olives, I’ve yet to figure out why this food in particular has such a strong hold on me. Then, a few months after my tour of McEvoy Ranch, I meet Abbie Scianambio.

Abbie is the founder of Sorelle Paradiso, an olive-oil and table-olive company in Tulare County, in California’s Central Valley. Abbie grows Sevillano olives on 44 acres of old orchards, and her company’s name, which means “The Paradiso Sisters” in Italian, pays homage to her great-grandmother Anna Paradiso and Anna’s sister, Francesca, who farmed olives several generations ago in Italy. Her olives are big and green, with a creamy, soft finish.

Along with growing olives, Abbie also is a certified Ayurvedic practitioner. In Ayurveda, which is the traditional Indian science of health and longevity, diet plays a large role in treatment.

When I tell her I’m baffled that olives have such a hold on me, she replies, “It’s the combination of the shape, texture, and taste. The oval shape is sensually pleasing, the salt calms the nervous system, and the oily meat satiates the body. And their unctuous quality is particularly healing, especially for our lifestyle, which is dry and fast-paced—we’re always running, and olives oil the system.”

This makes sense. While I do love the shape, the saltiness, and the meatiness of olives, perhaps I’ve also been “oiling” my system all these years.

I tell Abbie it’s interesting that people talk about the value of the Mediterranean diet—which is based on olive oil, whole grains, and greens—in a kind of vacuum, as if the diet is simply a distillation of specific vitamins, antioxidants, and fats. But the grains, the greens, the olives all come from the earth first, cared for and cultivated by hard work and helped along with the grace and good will of nature.

Abbie agrees. “If people understand where their food comes from and how it grows, they become more connected to their health and to themselves.”

“Every thing lives in accordance to cycles and seasons,” she continues. “The more connected you are with your food sources and with your own family history, the more connected you are with yourself as a human being.”

What started as a conversation about olives has turned into a conversation about life.

Abbie is right that olives are fundamentally healthy, but my relationship with them isn’t. I’m not really connected to olives, any more than I am to sausage or cheese or chocolate. When I’m eating these foods, I’m obsessed and alone. And that’s not enough for me any more.

About Author
Dayna  Macy
Dayna Macy’s essays have appeared in Self, Salon, Yoga Journal, and other publications; and in several anthologies. For the last decade she has worked at Yoga Journal as Communications Director, and now also as the Managing Editor for International E Continue reading