Sunday, September 12, 2010

Is Olive Oil Paleo?

I don't think so

I'll start by saying that Wikipedia isn't the most reliable source of info, but I'm going to posit that everything in the article linked to above is true, just to facilitate the discussion.

Clearly paleolithic hunter-gatherers weren't walking around with millstones and presses (as described in Wikipedia) to get the oil out of olives.  I suspect they'd eat olives like they'd eat any other fruit, as found, and seasonally. (I don't know what "olive season" is, but it really doesn't matter.  They'd eat them when they could.)

Olive oil's certainly more paleo than canola oil, however, in that it can at least be produced manually, and does not require industrial processes to extract.  Additionally, it's been consumed by reasonably healthy cultures for thousands of years.

So if you're trying to follow a paleo diet, should you eat olive oil?  Sure, why not?  It doesn't seem to be bad for you, assuming you're not chugging the stuff.  If you're going to fry, you need some oil, ideally; and tallow and lard (which are totally paleo) just don't go with everything.

I post this just to note that an absurd obsession with what is or isn't paleo can be self-defeating sometimes.

The notion of the Paleolithic Diet is one that should help in ferreting out foods that don't work for you and your family.  It shouldn't be doctrinaire.

The real question is, is frying paleo?  I think the answer to that is a pretty clear "No".  I can't imagine paleolithic hunters carrying around frying pans.  Even the Bronze Age was some time away.

So I'm really interested to see how many recipes include frying or sauteing in the forthcoming Paleo Diet Cookbook.

P.S.: Two updates from Barefoot Ted's Minimalist group:

Andy Southerland:
"I've eaten an olive from the tree before. DO NOT ATTEMPT. Paleo man did not eat olives without cooking and/or pickling them first because they are disgusting."

And the master of DIY, Gordo:

"Good point. I had forgotten. I made some green olives once when I was in college. There were incredible numbers of olive trees on University property, not campus proper, and I hated to see them go to waste. Processing consisted of soaking the olives in increasing concentrations of lye, followed by soaking in increasing concentrations of brine. Long-term storage was in brine. IIRC, it took several weeks to get an edible product. They were quite good, but I had to be attentive to not get botulism. Once you take them out of the brine and put them on the table, you throw away the leftovers. I made an incredible 3.5 gallons of them. I was tired of them by the time they were gone.

"My point is that you can't get an edible olive without containers. Pottery wasn't invented until after agriculture was established.

"Clearly not paleo. I eat them anyway. :)"