The Extra Mile

If you are one of the lucky people on Earth who had the chance to grow up in one of the countries in the Mediterranean basin, the odds are you or someone you know has an olive oil guy. Sometimes that person is one of your relatives or sometimes it’s a friend of a friend who is actually a producer. The reason for that is, the Mediterraneans have figured out the way to get the freshest produce possible, cutting out the middlemen. My grandparents were no different and my grandpa was the one with the olive oil guy. 

My grandpa was a very hard working man. He always found things to keep him busy and he always went the extra mile. He was also very very attached to his habits. How do I know? Well for starters he still went to the same fishmonger in their old neighbourhood which is two bus lines and a 50 minute walk away from where they’ve moved. The butcher was no exception as well but the most recent one that I’ve found out a few years ago was his olive oil merchant. 

One day he came up to me and asked whether I was free to drive him to a certain part of town the next day. Now my grandpa was an engineer and a very good one so he never asked for help unless he absolutely needed it. He always preferred to take the bus whenever he could but this time he needed driving around and to top it off he wanted to go to an industrial part of town with a lot of ateliers and workshops. I gladly accepted to drive him without any further questions thinking I’ll get my answers the next day eventually. 

Next morning we left the house right after breakfast to avoid the traffic and with grandpa as my co-pilot giving me the necessary directions we ended up parking in front of an auto repair workshop after a 45 minute drive. Grandpa told me to open the trunk as he got out of the car. Looking extremely out of place with his hat, scarf, long overcoat and umbrella, in this dusty, greasy and loud workshop, he marched straight into a room located at the back of the garage. As I got off to open the trunk still a bit confused on the topic of what the hell we were doing there, he came back followed by four mechanics each carrying two large 5 lt steel tins. They loaded the tins to the trunk and very quickly disappeared to get back to their work stations. The tins had my grandpa’s name on it and they were dated going two weeks back. These must have been something special and worth the 90 minute drive to this part of town. I was intrigued. This had turned out to be a mysterious pick up job.

As we got into the car to head back home, he looked at me and asked whether I had any idea on what we’d just scored. He had this smile on his face, which I don’t forget. He knew I had no idea. So without giving me a chance to reply, he revealed the fact that it was early harvest extra virgin olive oil in those tins, our full year supply. The olives have just been pressed two weeks ago in Ayvalik and the resulting oil was immediately tinned and shipped to this workshop in Istanbul for us to come and pick it up. Oh and one last thing: all of this for an amazingly bargain price, I mean to the point where you think “Wait a minute, this is too cheap to be good..”

Now my grandpa was in his early 90s when we took this trip. A 90 year old man, still willing to go the extra mile for his olive oil. When I think about that day I don’t think he actually needed my help. I think the whole purpose of that trip was to show me that you could find amazing quality in the most unexpected places and that it’s always good to be constantly curious and adventurous in your pursuit for quality. 

You might not and probably don’t have an olive oil guy like my grandpa but that still shouldn’t stop you from getting one. It is not an easy task and it requires you to go the extra mile when buying olive oil, which might seem unnecessary but trust me it will be worth it and it will be a long term solution. How on earth you will find that olive oil guy? That is exactly what next week’s topic is.   

Author: Ali Yalcin

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