Monday, July 25, 2011

The Olive Tree by Carol Drinkwater

Carol Drinkwater is a British actress who has an olive farm in Provence. She is absolutely passionate on the topic of olives and her enthusiasm is contagious. I think I ate olives or cooked with olive oil every day while I listened to the Clipper audiobook (15 hours), which is read by the author. Check out Drinkwater's website for details about her numerous other books, all with 'olive' in the title.

Subtitled A Personal Journey Through Mediterranean Olive Groves, this book is mostly a travel memoir. Drinkwater travelled on her own through Spain, Morocco, Algeria and Italy, following a proposed UNESCO Olive Heritage Trail. It is also an exploration of the history of olive cultivation and of 21st century agricultural concerns like water shortage, intensive farming, climate change and pesticide use versus organic practices.

Drinkwater has some pet theories about how olives were introduced to the Mediterranean. Her pure conjecture annoyed me, but then she admitted she was kicking around ideas on history to make historians turn in their graves, and I felt better. I also cut her some slack when she landed in Algeria at the same time as the capital had been bombed. A network of beekeepers had arranged to assist her travels through their country by putting her up in their homes, but Drinkwater stubbornly insisted on time to herself in a hotel. She didn't find out until afterwards how dangerous the situation had become for foreigners in Algeria.

Like Drinkwater, I enjoy travelling on my own. I'm heading off to Europe later this week, where I'll have 10 days to myself before joining a friend for a week in Ghent. My iPod is loaded up with audiobooks, ready to go.

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