Winter wellness with olive oil, body oiling & remembrance


Maternal grandparents home in Lorena ♡

Nostalgia marinated or simply remembrance 

When we were little, instinctively immersed in the process of language acquisition, Gallo was probably a part of that ever growing repertoire of words we start reading as simply 'big pictures', logos. From reading to tasting, to acquiring a refined palate took a journey as adventurous as the Odyssey. But as a child, complex flavors are simply reduced to something like "this is bitter, I don't like it, it's strong"... I'm sure you can all relate, and well ... a kid's palate can only appreciate so much.

Gallo was then a familiar sight on the kitchen counter. The Portuguese brand of olive oil houses memories and experiences I smile and savour to this day. Some are almost sinful like drizzling it over pizza, others are frugal uses of such ancient revered fruit. But if you ask me about THE dish, THE moment that nurtured a sense of admiration for such magnificent oil I will undoubtedly tell you that it was when I first set my eyes on sardella - the golden red Calabrian caviar swimming in a pool of rich olive oil: the adornment of the gods.

Some could question my enthusiasm saying it was really just granny's antipasto. No wait! Not grandma, that sardella we came to know and appreciate came from a specific Italian delicatesse in the neighborhood of Bexiga, São Paulo. A deli my grandfather knew personally, including its kitchen and staff. If I close my eyes I can still "see" for my heart remembers. There, sitting in the living room side table sardella, among other antipasti, was the intriguing foreigner, one of the very few dishes that were not handmade in the house for the anticipated weekend gatherings at my maternal grandparents home. Saudade, is a word lost in translation. 

Olives, a brief story 

For thousands of years we have nurtured a deep admiration and respect for the olive plant due to its connection to longevity as well as its therapeutic fruit and oil. Olives have been one of the most important sources of income for many civilizations throughout the history in the East Mediterranean, dating back 8000 years ago. In the languages of the world, olive has been called aceite, azeite, elaia, elaiwa, huile, olea, oleum, oil, oli, olive, oliva, zai, zait, zaitun, zeirtum, zeytin, zertum, zeta and zeytun. Some countries have, not surprisingly, named their children as Olivia, Olivier, Olivares and Zeytin. This is an oil that connects people, an ancestral oil, one that, as I like to say, helps bring the soul back home. It's all about r e m e m b r a n c e. 

There is no other tree on earth that has been the subject of as many legends and myths as the olive tree. There have been many stories and legends about the olives that involve individuals from prophets to kings, from Greek gods to pharaohs. These legends are about the longevity of the olive tree, its value and nobility, as well as its benefits to mankind and its holiness. They grow beautifully wild in the Mediterranean region and are vastly cultivated in its countries of origin and in regions with similar climate in the Americas, which is case of California (my go-to olive oil). 

According to Ancient Greeks, the most important sign of being from a holy family is to be born under an olive tree. Greek and Roman mythology, gods and demigods were born under olive trees. The twin children of Zeus; Apollo and Artemis, are believed to have been born in an olive grove. To be born in the shade of an olive tree is a very special occasion and is specific for Gods only. From a mythological point of view, Athena; the Goddess of Science is also the Guardian Goddess of the olive tree. Ancient Greeks and Romans are said to have cultivated olive trees in the memory of the dead. Heroic warriors and successful sportsmen were rewarded with wreaths weaved of olive branches. Their heads were crowned with olive branches and they were rewarded with amphoras filled with olive oil. Olive trees are also planted in temple gardens which are considered to be sacred.*

*Olive and Olive Oil Culture in the Mediterranean Basin, Recep Efe. 

Body Oiling with Olive Oil

I love how universally accessible the practice of body oiling is; how deeply rooted in tradition & folklore all the while being a humble and unpretentious form of healing and personal care. 

With its green, rich and strong aroma derived from the first pressing of ripe olives, olive oil remains one of my favorite oils to use when preparing herbal infusions to be used in body care rituals as well as in the kitchen where I prefer to use it in its raw form, rarely cooked. And since color and fragrance are not a concern to me, olive oil is my preferred oil to make medicinal salves/balms too. High in beneficial vitamins and minerals, the leaves contain oleoropine, oleasterol, and leine, and have been used topically for so long... not to mention it's probably present in most households, making it an affordable carrier oil for such applications. 

Body Oiling is a simple, yet profoundly effective way to drop the nervous system into a state of immediate relaxation. The medicine within the touch of our hands is one that we mustn't forget and so this practice, this form of self love is a beautiful way to wind down from the day and tune into your body, helping to soothe and warm the eyes, face, neck and jaw ~ moving the lymph in the neck, helping to drain and release toxins.

Below you will find a recipe for a body oil that you will be able to use in your face (except oily skin types), and body as part of your self care routines. The oil can also be used as a breast oil, to help heal minor skin irritations and ease an energetic child before bedtime. I invite you to set some time aside to make this experience a truly therapeutic one, and whenever possible to use the plants and herbs that grow in your region.

The same principles below can be applied to make culinary herbal oils too.

Flower Blossom Soothing Oil

THIS RECIPE SHOULDN'T BE EXPENSIVE or LABORIOUS. USE PLANTS that YOU ALREADY HAVE or that SPEAK TO YOUR HEART. If this is your FIRST TIME making oil infusions I recommend using DRIED HERBS

Fresh or dried:

Calendula flowers

Chamomile flowers

Dandelion flower

Bee balm flowers

Red clover blossoms 

Yarrow flowers 

Organic E. V. Olive Oil (enough to completely cover the flowers)

1 to 2 teaspoons of 100 proof vodka - this is a very important ingredient/step in your process of oil infusion; the alcohol in the vodka will prevent your oil from spoiling as well as help synthesize all the medicine within the plants.

• I would start with about half cup packed of each herb and add more of Calendula & Dandelion, about a cup if available.

• Keep in mind: If you want to use fresh flowers, have access to them at peak blossoming time and harvest in the morning before the sun gets too warm and after the dew has just dried. Be aware that mold can sometimes be a problem because fresh plants and herbs contain water and bacteria. If you wash your fresh herbs before using them, be sure they are completely dry before making an oil with them

• When making a culinary herbal oil, dried herbs can remain in the oil for the duration of its use, in other words, no straining necessary. 

Method

Put herbs in a bowl and stir in the vodka. Mash and stir the alcohol into the herbs until all the clumps are worked out. Re-hydrating the herbs with vodka enhances the extraction of medicinal properties and savory flavors (when used in the kitchen). I learned this crucial step with the experienced herbalist Kami McBride and haven't missed it ever since. It truly makes a difference. 

Put a sealing lid on the bowl and let the mixture sit for 30 min.

Transfer the re-hydrated herbs to a sterilized Mason jar and add enough olive oil until it has reached the bottom of the jar and has completely covered the plants at the top. Use a clean mixing spoon to incorporate oil and plants well and to remove any trapped air bubbles. 

The flowers will settle with the weight of the oil, so don't worry if it looks as though you don't have enough plants in the jar.

The jar should be quite full of herbs and oil. Make sure all plant matter is submerged and none is exposed to air!

There shouldn't be more than 1 inch of air space between the contents and the lid. Add more oil if necessary to bring the contents up to this level.

Blend and Infuse

Shake the jar several times to blend the herbs and oil thoroughly. 

Place the jar in a warm location and allow the flowers to infuse for 1 month. Shake the jar for 30 seconds or so daily and do your own inspections, checking for "clouds" and mold. 

After this time, carefully strain the oil through a fine, unbleached Muslin rested on top of a strainer or funnel and repeat if needed being careful not to let the herbs spill over the side of the cloth into the strainer (or funnel) and jar. If that happens, start again in a clean jar. 

This final step will require the same amount of patience necessary to let the herbs infuse. Allow enough time to strain. Read a book or listen to your favorite podcast or artist. And remember, time is medicine too. 

Fresh flowers infusion attention: DO NOT squeeze the cloth or you will squeeze water from the plants into the oil compromising the shelf life of the oil. 

Intentional formula that I personally love for the breasts and uterus: 

Motherwort and Wild Roses, Red Clover, Dandelion and Calendula here too with a few drops of Geranium essential oil. 

Dandelion has a special affinity for breasts. Regular use of dandelion flower oil promotes deep relaxation of the breast tissues, facilitating the release of held emotions. Applied regularly to the entire breast area, golden dandelion flower oil can strengthen your sense of self worth as well as your immune system.

Dandelion root oil, used alone or in conjunction with the flower oil, can help clear minor infections, relieve impacted milk glands and reduce cysts in the breasts. ♡


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