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Welcome to delicious Destinations, a GourmetStation blog. Through the charater of T.Alexander and occasional real-life guests, our aim is to share with you light-hearted fun ideas about food, gift giving, entertaining and culture. At the same time we would love you hear from you. Please share your experiences from home or abroad.

Olives - I Did It My Way

Posted: December 5, 2005
by: T.Alexander


A Year or two in Las Vegas - by Mark Stine

Welcome back guest writer Mark Stine. Mark has been a friend for many years and what I enjoy most about him is his ability to bring a multicultural lifestyle to any situation - no matter where he is living or working. In this post Mark shares his love for the Mediterranean region and his gift for bringing a little "faux Mediterranean" to his home in Las Vegas. Enjoy.

Always loving the Mediterranean lifestyle and yet never having the guts to do a Peter Mayle and spend a year in Provence renovating a house with all the ensuing humorous stories and profitable book royalties and BBC credits, or as Richard Hewitt did in a follow up book A Cottage in Portugal...I settled for a life in Las Vegas.

Taking a gamble on this move to Las Vegas, I basically owe it all to a story in Smart Money Magazine, which positioned Vegas as the next major boom town. It sure was and it sure did..three years later my desert home is now surrounded by growth.....barrel tiled roof tops as far as the eye can see. And one of the things I discovered in Vegas was the penchant for naming everything after Italian or Mediterranean based themes. To that end Olive trees have become as ubiquitous as well...casinos. Olives_1

But not just any olive trees...newly planted olive trees in Las Vegas must be sterile..to reduce pollen. Now, I love olives..all kinds of olives. They are wonderful to eat..alone..with wine..with cheese..as accents in Italian dishes...so you can imagine my disappointment that I was surrounded by olive trees that would yield no bounty. I remember eating cans of pitted olives as a child...nothing was better. But as I grew up and discovered all the variety of specialized and prepared olives ...my palate craved these new offerings.

My earliest exposure to freshly grown and cured olives came in college, where while attending the University of Arizona in Tucson I was introduced to Nick, the Greek neighbor of my friends Lyn and David Streeter. Lyn's lilting English accent and David's mechanical abilities kept my car running and me well fed those years of college and Lyn and David shared Nick's wonderful olives with me (and also introduced me to Ranch dressing...but that is a whole nother story). Cured olives, the old world way....without lye.

So as I observed all these olive trees in my new neighborhood in Vegas and the memories of college years circa 1974/75 flooded back, I felt that my own little paradiso in Summerlin, The Vistas in the Canterra subdivision surrounded by olive trees had finally provided me with the faux Mediterranean life of which I had dreamed. And....just as Jeff Goldblum had pointed out in Jurassic Park, through chaos theory and how nature abhors a vacuum and fills a void, those sterile dinosaurs found a way to reproduce..... well....those sterile Olive trees in Summerlin weren't so sterile after all.

So in late October and early November, I began harvesting the bounty of olives growing on all of the allegedly (no pollen intended)! sterile trees. Downloading a recipe for brine curing olives off the internet....I went to my local 99 cent only store and procured four large square glass vessels (vessels sounds so much more European than jars) with wooden stoppers. Following the Internet recipe directions, I sliced each of the firmly black olives, placed them compactly into the vessels filled each with salt and water for my brine solution and proceed to top each one with the wooden stopper.

It all looked so official and I felt....accomplished. Nick, from oh so many decades ago was no doubt looking over my shoulder from somewhere in the great beyond. I am sure, maybe not agreeing with my technique, but smiling no less that someone who had tasted his old world olives, was starting down that road of harvesting, preparing and eating this Mediterranean bounty. And maybe someday you will to.

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