The Olive Oil as an Intercultural Bridge

When we think of a classic moment of meeting and sharing, we usually imagine we are sitting at the table in order to eat. So, the food immediately becomes an element representing us in our traditions, habits, and culture. However, we rarely give such importance to the dressing we use. But, what does the dressing exactly consist of? 

The word “dressing” derives from the Middle English word “dress” (put straight), based on the Latin word directus (direct, straight), which means “to put a condiment into a dish in order to perfect food and flavor it”. Dressings may all look the same, used as flavor aids, but in reality, they do not taste the same. Furthermore, an interesting aspect is that every country uses several specific products to season their gastronomic specialties, which mark them and characterize every culinary custom as a sign of cultural identity.

Across Mediterranean Europe, we find a great variety of preferences for condiments, but the first one is surely olive oil. Instead, around the world, the gastronomic cultures stand out using different types of flavorings, such as vegetable fats, lard, soy sauces, butter, spices, and herbs.

Today we are going to focus on the role of olive oil in preparing a dish. Commonly known as a simple dressing, it becomes (during preparation or at the end) a real ingredient contributing to determine or to change the final taste. Moreover, this type of condiment is the only one obtained from a sort of fruit juice, simply squeezing the olives. Full of nutrients, the olive oil changes its shape from solid to liquid, to meet every type of food, enriching it and becoming an intercultural bridge able to connect all the gastronomic traditions.

Below, we will show you three different recipes, belonging to some countries of the world: Tunisia, Serbia, and India. Our culinary choice shows a common denominator (the rice) and the seasoning of food for excellence (the oil). Moreover - although each of these countries has a controversial history – the olive oil just represents a dispositive able to overcome the national borders.

Elevo meets Rouz Jerbi, a Tunisian dish

It is a typical dish of Tunisia and it consists of rice, chickpeas, peas, carrots, onions, tomatoes, spinach, harissa (chili), herbs, spices, and olive oil. Typically cooked into a couscous steamer, it’s a very versatile recipe.

Elevo meets Vegetarian Sarma, a Serbian dish

It is a typical dish of Serbia, but also of all the Balkans. It is a roulade made of cabbage leaves and inside there are rice, different types of mushroom, onions, herbs, spices, and olive oil (in the Serbian tradition you often find animal fats). Sometimes, cabbage leaves are replaced with vine ones.

Elevo meets Biryani, an Indian dish

It is a typical dish of India and of all the Bay of Bengal. It’s a medley of rice, chicken (or veggies for vegetarian Biryani), onions and garlic, herbs and spices, potatoes, boiled eggs, and olive oil (in the original recipe you find ghee). There are maybe almost 100 varieties of biryani in the world.


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