Photo: USDAgov, flickr
ATHENS—In an effort to streamline Greece’s crippled economy, a government-funded study has recommended some fundamental changes to the country’s food production. A particularly slippery suggestion: blending sacred Greek olive oil with cheaper vegetable oil.
“Never!” shouted Zacharo olive farmer, Dimitris Panagos. “These new-world Greeks with their waxed chests and manscaped eyebrows want us to betray our heritage for the sake of the almighty Euro! What’s next? Feta cheese made with cow’s milk?”
While Spain and Italy produce more olive oil than Greece, the Mediterranean island is well known for its small batch, quality product. Opponents of the proposed blended oil feel it would harm the reputation of the country and one of its top exports.
“Olive oil is in our blood,” said agricultural historian Anastasia Nino. “According to Greek mythology, the goddess Athena gave an olive tree to our capital city. The gift was considered so precious, the metropolis was named after her.”
Nino’s comments are no exaggeration. The average Greek consumes 18 liters of olive oil yearly, meaning the country feasts on 10 per cent of total global production. “Would you ask Canadians to cut their maple syrup with Aunt Jemima?” asks Nino. “This proposal is tantamount to treason!”
The study also prescribes changes in regulations for other commonly used products. For example, restricting the starches included on a souvlaki dinner platter. “Rice, potatoes and pita?” asks economist Stavros Vasil. “Nobody needs that many carbs. Pick two and save some money.”
In a country known as the birth place of the Olympic Games, philosophy and math, this is a touchy subject. “Greek people are proud,” said Vasil. “Even though our economy is in the toilet, we still don’t want to be perceived as weak. Notwithstanding the bailout of 2010.”