I could seriously go on and on about the food here. It is really good. Really. The shawarma, the falafel, the humus; it is all so good. You can’t really beat getting a falafel sandwich for 50 cents! I don’t think I could ever get sick of those. I love going to the neighbor fruit and vegetable stand and buying fresh local mini-bananas, figs, pomegranate, etc. Honestly, I don’t know what it is, but the cucumbers here are so much better than the ones back home. Of all these, however, there is one food item that Jordanians simply can’t do without: Olives.
Olive trees in this region go back hundreds and hundreds of years and they are inter-woven into their people’s very identity. They are a symbol of family honor and are passed down from generation to generation. Every single dish prepared here is not truly ready until there is olive oil on top. The cool thing is I actually can quantify how important Olives are here; but first a little background.
We recently visited a city named Ajloun in the North of Jordan. It is olive country! There are miles and miles of olive tree groves. Luckily, we were able to visit during the harvest. We took a leisurely stroll along a country lane in the middle of these groves. We picked and ate fresh figs as we walked and marveled at the families harvesting the olives. Usually, they take the whole family to harvest all day long and they picnic for lunch. We then visited an olive press, which was essentially a big warehouse. The families bring huge burlap sacks, empty the olives on to the conveyor belt, the olives are then crushed, and then the oil is separated into the most pure olive oil you have ever seen! It is then poured into 5 gallon metal tanks and given back to the family.
Now, to give you some perspective. I talked to one of my friends and he was planning on making a trip to Ajloun to buy enough olive oil to last him a year. He was planning on buying 10 tanks, each worth around 65-75 JD (which is around 100 USD). That is a lot of olive oil. Another man said his family goes through over a tank per month. How you ask? Every morning they drink a shot of olive oil on top of using it in everything they cook.
Good thing I really like olives!