Monologue #1: Kürşat Olive Oil

Courtesy of Kürşat

I’m hesitant to complain about the pandemic, which seems to be stretching into perpetuity, but the fact that I’ve had no notable commissions for months now is a reality I’m having some issues dealing with. And so in this time of deficit I’ve decided to add a category entitled ‘Monologues’ to my website under which I will write personal posts about all the lovely things that stand as evidence of life’s duality.

(I’m going to write a bit for myself for a change, let’s see where that takes me.)

The first Monologue is going to be about Kürşat Olive Oil, due to the fact that it’s now finally on sale in Europe (thank you Manzara Shop). I discovered Kürşat years ago when I was still working at The Guide Istanbul magazine, which has sadly fallen victim to the rather grotesque economic and political woes in Turkey at the moment. But back then, the magazine was thriving and the photographer and I were allowed to accept the invitation to the Ayvalık Olive Oil Festival. Of course, the two of us were nothing like the overtly eager journalists who arrived and noted down every detail in the press meeting. We just wanted to get out of there and explore on our own. And get drunk, which we did every night (thank you Vino Şarap Evi).

Like the unruly children that we were, we didn’t really go to the other press events and instead walked around the small Aegean island by ourselves. We strolled up to the highest point and looked down on the old Greek stone houses, the lush Bougainvillea bushes, the dome of the Taxiarchis Church and the open sea all sparkling in the heat. We came across wandering sheep who stared at us hoping for food (we didn’t have any) and then laid down in the grass to take a nap (we were hungover). And at some point I decided to climb one of the olive trees and sit on its branch like some kind of oversized capricious bird. But what does all this have to do with Kürşat you may ask? Well everything really. Because all those beautiful feelings are reflected by this small family business that makes the best olive oil I know.

Thanks to our nightly imbibing habit, we met two other journalists who were set to meet with the Kürşat family and we got to tag along. We drove to the small mill where yellow crates filled with olives were being emptied into a de-stemming machine. We went inside and were inundated by the golden smell of unfiltered olive oil, just wafting through our very existence. We listened to their story, how they took on the business from their grandparents who, after producing olive oil in Crete, moved to Ayvalık in 1923 and continued their trade. How the mill is eco-friendly, producing no waste due to refuse-derived fuel; how every bottle contains oil from their ancestral groves only, where the olives are lovingly picked by hand in order to avoid being bruised; and that seawater is added to production for unique flavor. That their olive oil is wholly natural and contains no additives is a given, so why even mention it (but I will anyway).

Courtesy of Ayna Cunda

On the last night of the press extravaganza in Cunda, there was a small gathering at Ayna, Kürşat’s own restaurant, a place where I would be happy just living. Everything is white+natural wood and endearingly simple, there’s natural olive oil soap in the bathroom (of course made by Kürşat and sold in their shops) and every homemade dish has that liquid gold just backing it up for taste; such fantastically simple pleasures.

Back when my husband was still my boyfriend and I had to fly from Istanbul to Berlin every few weeks to visit him, I always had a 1500ml bottle of Kürşat’s unfiltered olive oil in my suitcase. I worried every time that it would break, not because my clothes would forever be ruined, but because a suitcase full of now-inedible olive oil would have been utterly devastating. What a waste! But it never happened, thank the gods. And now, years later, that same 1500ml bottle is in our kitchen here in Berlin (thank you again Manzara Shop) and the only thing I’m sad about is that I can’t go to Istanbul and to the Kürşat store in Nişantaşı. Or to Cunda. But let’s be grateful for the small things. For the memories of Cunda in the sun, a sample of olive oil directly from the press in a Turkish tea glass, wise old olive trees and youthful wonder without a splinter of malaise.

Thank you for reading the first Monologue.

PS: I sadly have no photos of my own to accompany this post, so thank you Kürşat/Ayna/Manzara for letting me use yours.

Click below to buy this magnificent olive oil (I recommend the unfiltered variety-‘trüb’)

Courtesy of Manzara Shop

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