Olive oil holds a distinct and time-honored place in the realm of culinary history, with a legacy spanning thousands of years. Evidence of its use can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where intricate wall paintings have depicted the age-old techniques employed to extract this precious substance.
However, history isn’t stagnant, and innovative minds are often inspired to revive ancient culinary traditions. If beer can be made according to an old Egyptian recipe, why not do the same with olive oil? That’s what Emlyn Dodd, the British School at Rome’s Assistant Director of Archaeology, documented in a recent essay for The Conversation.
He delved into the world of olive oil production according to historical Greek, Roman, and possibly Phoenician agricultural texts, and paid particular attention to the ancient method of torsion that was documented some 4,500 to 4,600 years ago.
While archaeological records offer scarce evidence of actual olive oil facilities in Pharaonic Egypt, relying largely on iconography for insights, Dodd’s experiment shed light on the feasibility of pressing olives and crafting oil using the frequently depicted torsion method.
The technique itself is elegantly simple. It commences with the crushing of olives, which are then placed within a permeable bag. The crucial step involves inserting sticks at both ends of the bag and then deftly twisting them in opposing directions. After attempting various approaches, Dodd found that anchoring one end and twisting the other yielded the most favorable outcomes.
Though not all of the resulting liquid separated, those that did provided a delectable olive oil. This culinary experiment proves that even a recipe dating back to the time of pharaohs can be successfully recreated in the modern kitchen.
It’s a captivating and relatively straightforward method for crafting your own olive oil at home, bridging the gap between the distant past and contemporary culinary exploration.