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Friday, December 13, 2013

A Shining Example. By John von Daler

                  Some call it craftsman or possibly artisan. I like #artisan, an artisan to my mind being a person who makes art out of a trade.
                       Such a person owns a warehouse for olive oil on the little island of #Paxos south of Corfu in the Aegean Sea. If you stand in the main town, #Gaios, facing the harbor with your back to the Orthodox church and if you then walk by the little coffeehouse with its wooden benches and to the left past a series of warehouses and stores you will soon reach a large door facing the harbor. Inside, in the dark, this merchant has bottles and barrels and jugs filled with olive oil. The oil is not imported. With pride he will point out to you the Paxoticness of his product.
                All right. You too have fielded a heavy pitch, you too have seen commercials featuring a pleasant, little mustachioed man who wants you to buy a can of tomato sauce just like the purée his mother made back in Sicily.
                My olive merchant is not like that. He really, honestly just loves the stuff.
                I usually come in and say I want some liters of the local virgin oil and expect to have it packed and paid in a jiffy. But this is not his way. In his rolled up sleeves and broad apron he picks up a glistening metal pitcher. Into this he taps the oil. Then he takes the receptacle you want the oil put into. He walks to the door that opens out onto the blue water of the harbor and the glorious forty degrees C sun. He opens it despite the printed admonition that reminds unknowing tourists that olive oil should not encounter too much light.
                Holding the pitcher up in the golden sunlight he pours the olive oil in a thumb-thick stream from the pitcher to your plastic bottle so that the sun shines through the thick, yellow-green flow of oil. As he pours he looks at you to make sure you are watching this miraculous show. Specks of sun shine through the oil and onto the dark floor behind him.
                After the last drop has been poured into the bottle he turns around and cocks his head in a questioning gesture, as if to say Now isn't that the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?               
                After perhaps six visits to Paxos I have finally forgotten whether I come there for the oil or for the glistening pantomime show. I only know that in our world of institutionalized lying, an artisan who genuinly loves his trade should be cherished and praised.



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