At least, it does in my mind.
It’s a miracle worker, with the power to transform the most basic of ingredients into something delicious. In my student days I ate breadcrumb spaghetti, enlivened by a dash of garlicky parsley-specked oil; during my London sojourn, which coincided with the arrival of a certain Mr Oliver on the scene, I drizzled and splashed with the best of them; and moving to Yorkshire I learned from reading Annie Hawes to use rosemary from the garden to baste sausages and meat with oil. Using good oil brings out the best in the plainest of ingredients.
But then came a bit of a backlash and I cut down on my oil usage. Put like that, it sounds horrendous! I hope you understand what I mean. I started to experiment with Chinese and Thai cookery. For a while I succumbed to the lure of Slimming World and surrendered to Frylite and other monounsastsumated whatsits, but what I lost in weight I lost in taste too.
Hence I returned to the greeny gold purity with great glee during our trip last summer round Italy and France. If I could, I’d have bought back many more bottles than could fit in the car (blame the wine purchasing for taking up far too much space). I luxuriated in enjoying tomato, mozzarella and basil salads, and bought olive oil bread to sprinkle with salt and enjoy with a glass or two of Prosecco.
Now, I try to moderate my olive oil usage. I no longer splash it around like Jamie, but I’m certainly not one for scrimping or denying myself if it will add to the overall recipe. I do exercise caution (and exercise cautiously, as those of you who know about my running attempts are well aware!) not least as I only have one bottle left of those which made the trip home with us.
If you believe the claims on the internet, Olive Oil could save the world in a single teaspoon. I’ll settle for the fact that it’s great for removing mascara as proof it really was worshipped by the gods. I bet Aphrodite got through gallons.