The egg experiment

The egg experiment

I was the youngest member of the family, and Nona (my paternal grandmother, see photo) often looked after me while the rest of the family was occupied. I learned a lot from her self-sufficiency and simple methods, and still apply many of them, such as sun-drying fruit and a number of her recipes and methods for preparing food. One such was the traditional way of preparing olives, since they cannot be eaten as picked from the tree, being far too bitter and hard. To make them edible, Nona would first discard any damaged or stained olives, and after washing them well, she placed them in a container of water, which would be changed every few days for about a week, to draw out the bitterness. Then, after moving the olives to a ceramic vase, she would add the salt in stages. This was a delicate process, calling for my Nona’s trained eye to gauge the right amount of salt, but to judge when the salt content was just right, a more sophisticated test was needed, in the shape of the “egg experiment.” Nona would place a fresh, raw egg in the vase of olives and saline. If the egg sank, more salt was necessary; if it floated, then the saline balance was just right, and it was time to add oregano, lemon slices, a few cloves of garlic, and top the mixture up with olive oil so as to guard against spoiling. Naturally relatives and neighbours were called upon to sample the fresh batch of olives, and Nona was always happy to share her home-made goods.

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