I'm Choking On A Kalamata Olive, Not Your Everyday Olive

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I'm Choking On A Kalamata Olive, Not Your Everyday Olive

Oh, my. This is superb. Superb, indeed. My Greek grocer Kostas told me he had a surprise for me, and he certainly did: These are quite simply the finest kalamata olives I've ever tasted. Absolutely delightful. Certainly not your ordinary olive. It's a privilege, really, just to be choking on one, as I am right now.

Ahh... yes. No need to panic just yet. My trachea is savoring the tang, the richness. This was hand-picked, I can tell. Yes, I can sense that its skin wasn't broken by a rough fall from a tree. I'm very sensitive to qualities like that. What a pity it would be if someone were present to end this culinary epiphany by unblocking my windpipe. Few outside of Greece experience an olive-choking this rapturous.

Mmm... Do I detect a splash of red-wine vinegar? Excellent, excellent. A shame to squeeze them into jars of acrid brine. Best to store these singular creatures in a gently seasoned marinade. And why muddle them in a tapenade, really? Enjoy them unadulterated and unpitted, I say. Relish their simple, onyx-like beauty. One of Olympus' greatest gifts to mortals, the kalamata olive. Be aware of the risks of enjoying them whole, however! My goodness, it's lodged in there quite tightly.

Ahh. Mmm, yes. Unmistakably from the Kalamata region of Greece. The pick of his cousin's grove, Kostas informed me, bless his heart. The crop seems unaffected by the spring windstorms of '04. Succulent. Powerful, but not overpowering. Perhaps the squalls blowing in from the Ionian Sea lightly salted the olive grove and its chalky soil! I kid, of course. By now, I'm sure you're all very anxious about my present condition. I shall alert the paramedics in short order, I assure you. Let me just savor these flavors a moment longer.

Delectable? Ravishing? Understatements. Adjectives do not do this olive justice. Yes, leave your everyday olives to the sticky, flyspecked countertops of open-air bars. Well, this is an all-new culinary experience. I am literally dying!

Absurd to think that for so many years I knew only those wan, vacuum-packed specimens of the pimento-stuffed canapés and dutifully garnished martinis of my own mother's patio parties—such farcical affairs. Jackie O and Lilly Pulitzer never did show up, sadly, but we were always left with enough tins of Underwood deviled ham to supply a score of sack lunches. Reality has such a way of being so tiresomely opprobrious. Ah well. Poor mother, she tried her best. No matter, I suppose.

This presents quite a wrinkle. I've dialed 911, but as I attempt to speak, no sound issues forth. Bah! Indulge your cravings for gauche heroics elsewhere, I beseech you. "Acclaimed Food Writer Saved By Fast-Thinking Lout" will not appear in tomorrow's papers.

My goodness. Having just caught a glimpse of myself in the alcove mirror, I realize that a degree of alarm is in order. I am turning blue. It's my own fault, you know, scarfing these delicious olives down like Allsorts. But I still firmly maintain, even as all grows shrouded and dim, that a kalamata olive is best savored whole, solid, and quick. Sweet Athena, this may be the end. But what a glorious way to go!

Martin Ithell's food column appears in over 250 newspapers nationwide.


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