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Olive Oil

Olive oil has been soothing the skin of the rich, famous (and not-so-of-either) since ancient times–when being a virgin still meant something. It’s been cultivated for 5,000 years, give or take a few centuries. In fact, some say that the olive may be the oldest tree on Earth–which, if true, means that Eve must have given Adam a not-quite-ripe green olive instead of an apple. This might explain why, when things aren’t going well, we say, "Life is the pits" as opposed to "Life is the pips." Then again, it might not.

Around about 3,000 B.C., the olive tree began to propagate itself west from its native Asia–first to the Middle East, and then, via those intrepid Phoenician seafarers to southern Europe. Speaking of Phoenicians, it’s a known fact that they were descendants of Atlanteans, as was Mr. Noah of biblical flood fame. What did said Mr. Noah do when he wanted to find out if the crisis had passed? He sent out a dove! And what did said Mr. Dove do? He brought back an olive branch as a symbol of peace and hope, two human attributes of which we are big fans; although not the particular favorites of our bipolar poet name Charles Baudelaire (nor, it seems, of most folks who were begat by Noah and his namesakes for generations thereafter in the Middle East). Are you catching our drift here? Good. Can you give us a clue where it’s leading? That would be a big help. Thanks.

Over the years, the mystique of olive oil grew by leaps and bounds. Moses excused men from the military if they’d agree to cultivate it. The oil lit the lamps of sacred temples– including those inhabited by revolutionary Maccabees who proved that a little can go a real long way.

Meanwhile, over on the the northern side of the Mediterranean, Athens was being named for the goddess Athena, who changed civilization by showing the locals the benefits of using oil that wasn’t greasy (sic). She planted one of the trees on the rocky promontory where the Acropolis later rose.

Olive oil was first used for light, heat, food, and medicine. But, before long, folks started slathering it over their skin and shampooing it into their hair with reckless abandon. After bathing in olive oil, our classical ancestors would remove the excess with a special scraper. After that, all bets were off.

The Greek father of medicine, Hippocrates, even called olive oil "the great therapeutic." His most famous quotation should read. "First do no harm. Then do olive oil."

As the years wandered aimlessly along, early cosmetologist recognized that the abundance of glycerides and fatty acids in olive oil make it gentle enough for use on even sensitive skin, and its anti-oxidant properties take your breath away when it comes to making skin look more glowing and youthful.

In more modern times, of course, Popeye’s girlfriend was named after it (even though she spelled it wrong), Oprah undoubtedly promoted a cookbook that used it, Martha Stewart suggested people do things with it that we’d prefer not to discuss, and now it is the preferred ingredient in all manner of body care products … shampoos, lotions, soaps, fettucini d’olio… you name it! Which reminds us of those pesky virgins again. To tell the truth (as we like to do from time to time) extra-virgin olive oil is more commonly a food product because taste is the primary criteria. The olive oil used for cosmetics is chosen for fragrance, consistency, and density.

The Provencal provenance of olive oil skin-care products dates to the Middle Ages. In the brief periods when folks weren’t raping, pillaging, and burning each other’s villages (in the name of various dukes and deities) intrepid orchardists had the unmitigated gaul to cultivate massive plantations along the Mediterranean. Today, olive oil is so important in southern France that it is treated like the very best wines. Aficionados pride themselves on the great varieties of subtle flavors and consistencies that can be coaxed from the fruit during processing.

Baudelaire’s new collection of olive-oil-based skin care products has been developed, formulated and blended by our friends at Provence Santé under the name Jardin de l’Olivier. It includes luxurious and natural bath, body, and skin care products all incorporating high quality olive oil and a light, distinctive fragrance that evokes some of our favorite flora of Provence… lavender, artemisia and lemon, punctuated with tarragon and oak moss accents. Slather on! (And go in peace....)