An olive, to many, is no more than a humble lump at the bottom of a martini. When FDR met with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in Tehran, he offered each a “dirty martini:” two parts gin, one part vermouth, and a dose of olive brine. Roosevelt mixed one for Stalin’s foreign minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, who apparently was not impressed. He devised his own cocktail, of greater potency.
The preceding is vintage Mort Rosenblum and delivered in style in Mort’s most magnificent Olives: The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit. Debbie and I were introduced to Mort by his wife, Jeannette, and acclaimed food book author, food blogger, and Paris insider and gourmet tour master David Lebovitz. All of this nifty stuff happened to Debbie and me on our recent France/Switzerland research trip.
David’s 10-guest gourmet tour formed the centerpiece of our trip. Mort, former special war correspondent to the Associated Press and editor of International Herald Tribune, was on board for part of the trip, providing, along with Jeanette, much color, energy and insider input. Mort, Jeanette and David have all been Paris residents for a couple of decades, speak fluent French, and know their way around Paris. Debbie and I benefitted mightily from their knowledge and introductions to many outstanding gourmands on the Paris food, wine and chocolate scene. In an age of globalization and faceless agribusiness behemoths, it was a privilege to meet artisanal purveyors who still adhere to the timeless traditions handed down, in many cases, from generation to generation. The restaurant introductions were also worth their weight in gold, with special meals and wine tastings. This type of intelligence cannot be gathered on one’s own, as a big percentage of the insiders we met do not open their chocolate or cheese making or baking facilities to the general public. When you are with David, it’s another matter.
Since I met Mort, I have ordered a number of his books, including Escaping Plato’s Cave, which Mort tells you about in my On Board With Mort featured video. Debbie and I were on the boat watching boats slide by on the Seine from the same porthole you will see in the video.
In Olives, Mort writes, “Back in the 1980’s I wouldn’t have known an olive branch if Noah’s dove had flown up with one in it’s beak. I bought my little ruin in a back corner of high Provence for the beauty and peace, not the vegetation. It took a day’s hacking just to reach the collapsed house. With the thick climbing vines and dense undergrowth thoroughly mined with spiky brambles, I had to take it on faith that olives lurked somewhere out there in the jungle.”
And indeed there were olives, which Mort has successfully cultivated for over two decades. What a wonderfully written book Olives: The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit is. But then one does not do a couple of decade stint as an AP correspondent and a turn as headman at IHT without accumulating a gang of skill along the way. I recommend Mort’s books to you. They will be every bit the delight to you as they have been to me. You see, I not only learned a lot while I was there, but I continue to learn as I enjoy and benefit from the books authored by the special Paris insiders we met this April in Paris. More ahead, including intelligence on my absolute belief that electric trains, and I don’t mean diesel, are the future of transportation.
Debbie & Dick