Goodness From Greece
The Post Supply talked with Oracle Oil's Founder Cristiana Sadigianis about the history of her family groves, her life in Greece and what Olive Oil means to her.
TPS : We know Oracle Oil has a special family legacy for you. Can you tell us about the history of your family's groves?CS : Oracle is really an ode to my ancestors. Olive groves, and consequently olive oil, have been a significant presence on both my mother’s side of the family (from Delphi) and my father’s (from the Pelopponese) where my ancestors have been cultivating olives and producing their own small batch organic evoo for hundreds of years. The olive line runs deep! Growing up, olive oil was used for practically everything — my grandmother used it as a moisturizer for her skin and hair, she baked, cooked and preserved with it, and she made tinctures with it for the winter using oregano, oil and thyme. Oracle is comprised of our small organic farm in Laconia, in the southeast of the Peloponnese, as well as a cooperative of two organic farms that practice sustainably and responsibly. It really has been a full circle for me returning to my roots, both physically and spiritually and being able to work with my hands. I feel so grateful to be able to support the local community of farmers and to be in Greece for the harvest and press in the fall. To witness the alchemy from olives to oil has always been a very special and mystical process for me.
TPS : What traditions in your family inspired you to create your own olive oil?
CS : My grandparents and their ancestors were stewards of the land, and growing up in that way, amongst our own apiaries, almonds, chickens and olives, I really took for granted that this wasn’t the norm and was not as accessible outside of these small communities in Greece. I really wanted that narrative of not needing more than you have, and celebrating the elemental, to come through in creating Oracle.
My Greek heritage has been the driving force behind all things food and community for me. From how carefully it has been grown, prepared with love and attention and who and how I'm sharing it with. I think being exposed to the harvests each season, whether it was olives, or grapes for wine or apricots for jam — pressing their own olives each fall left a mark on me. We would barter with families of the small local Greek communities for goods they grew.
Looking back it was a really beautiful tradition of growing seasonally and sharing the bounty. In Greece, you start planning out tomorrow’s lunch while you are still eating yesterday’s.
TPS : Your life in Greece sounds so dreamy. Can you tell us about your day to day as you caretake the land, oversee the harvest and make your oil?
CS: Greece has a very strong and old identity. It knows itself well and has a difficult time adopting, and it’s rather inefficient on many logistical levels; however, it is those things we might call shortcomings or disadvantages that are the qualities that allow you to disarm. My day to day in Greece has a very different rhythm to my life in NY. Things move much slower here, the pace is never hurried, the culture inspires presence — something that isn’t always so easy to switch into coming from NY, however I think it’s this slowdown that is the most nurturing. That and the sea, which to me is the most healing of all the elements. My days in Greece always involve picking seasonal fruits and vegetables from the garden for that day’s meals, a hike in the mountains, a dip in the sea, and preparing and sitting down to long nurturing meals.
In regards to the maintenance of the olive trees — they are minimally pruned in the spring, they do not need a lot of maintenance and we prefer to apply minimal intervention to their growth cycle. They like direct sunlight and a dry arid climate. Our groves are on the rocky coast creates a micro climate which gives the soil a saline quality. We use natural sheep fertilizer and do not use any chemicals. We harvest our unfiltered Agoureleo in September and our traditional early harvest batch in October by hand.
TPS : We are sure there must be many sources of inspiration for you for cooking while there - what's a favorite meal you have just eaten or made?CC : Leading with the best ingredients, making vegetables the hero ingredient and meat or fish the supporting actors is what has been primary directing my cooking while in Greece. I have been really loving “gemista”, stuffed tomatoes, zucchini or eggplants with rice and loads of herbs, doused with a lot of Oracle and sea salt from the rocks in Andros.
All photography courtesy of Oracle Oil. Copyright 2021