Fall 2016

Liquid Gold: The Science, History, and Social Context of Olives and Olive Oil

Listed in: First Year Seminar, as FYSE-117


Patricia B. O'Hara (Section 01)


The olive has been fundamental to both the culture and lifestyle of the Mediterranean region for several millennia.  This course will begin with the history of olive trees and its symbolic importance in ancient art and culture.  We will explore the production of the oil, and the chemicals that make up the oil with particular attention to their biological impact. Some have proclaimed that olive oil is the healthiest oil, and we will include a critical reading of the health claims for this amazing substance in the context of the Mediterranean diet.  How does the chemistry of the oil affect its use in the preparation and tasting of foods? We will also consider uses of olive oil outside the kitchen and explore its ritual incorporation in the ancient world.  Olive oil fraud is a major concern for modern consumers in the U.S.  We will discuss the parameters by which oils are graded and evaluated and consider ways in which the industry might be better regulated and consumers better educated.     

Fall semester.  Professor O'Hara.


Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016