You recently launched Oracle Olive Oil, congratulations, it’s a favorite of ours. Can you share why you started Oracle?
Thank you! Both my parents were born and raised in Greece; my mom in Delphi and my dad in the Peloponnese. They lived off their land and harvested their own honey, made their own wine, and of course, their own olive oil. I spent 3 to 4 months each summer with my grandparents in their bucolic little villages surrounded by mountains and sea, and as I got older, I started to become aware of how living that way has impacted my identity and my direction in life. Juxtaposed with a 17-year career producing shoots in New York for high-end fashion clients, the chasm was pretty wide! They say as you get older your sense of homecoming becomes stronger, and I suppose that this calling was a result of that.
Also, I’ve been interested in the role food plays in our well-being for as long as I can remember. I always felt a distance culturally from how people ate in the U.S. compared to the way we did in Greece, where high-quality fats like olive oil, nuts, eggs and yogurt were embraced. I started seeing functional doctors like Frank Lipman for holistic nutrition and acupuncture when I was 23, when the wellness world was not as developed as it is now. I also attended the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, The Natural Gourmet Center, and received an olive oil sommelier certificate from The International Culinary Center.
Greek households consume A LOT of olive oil, the most in the world, more than 20 liters per person a year! I use EVOO multiple times a day, so when I started reading more about how corrupt the olive oil industry is, and how most of the oil on the market is rancid and adulterated, I knew I wanted to create my own high-quality, organic EVOO that united my purpose and identity with the oil from my family’s olive groves and a cooperative of two small organic and sustainable farms.
There is a lot of conversation about the health benefits of olive oil, what do you believe the biggest ones are? Do all olive oils contain these properties?
SO MANY! And we keep discovering more. The second International Yale Symposium on olive oil and health was held in Delphi this past December, and it was a major milestone in the research and findings on EVOO, not only for human health but also the health of the environment. Scientists reported that for every 1 liter of olive oil, 23.4 lbs of carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere.
In addition, researchers are now discovering that the remarkable amount of antioxidants, polyphenols and oleocanthal (the phenolic compound that’s responsible for the burning or choking sensation in the back of your throat) that EVOO contains can lead to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer and other conditions that arise from inflammation and oxidative stress. High-quality, clean EVOO is powerful plant medicine.
Unfortunately not all oil is created equal. There’s a lot of money to be made in the olive oil market when you can yield high quantities by compromising on quality, which means that olive oil’s integrity is greatly challenged. Olive oil is a fruit juice, and is directly affected by the way it’s grown, harvested, pressed and stored. There is very little regulation on olive oil. A lot of the oil on the market comes from olives that have been treated with pesticides, harvested by large machinery, left out to ferment for days or weeks before being pressed, and stored in clear or plastic bottles, which degrades the oil rapidly and destroys its nutrients.
When purchasing EVOO it’s important to pay attention to the following quality indicators:
—Harvest Date: The expiration date doesn’t tell you when the oil was made. From the harvest date, you have approximately 18 months to consume the oil, assuming it was harvested early and stored properly.
—Origin or Region: The oil cultivar or variety should be listed. As well as the region the oil is from. In Europe we use PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) or PGI (Protected Geographical Indication). You want your oil to be as traceable as possible.
—Bottle: Always purchase olive oil that’s packaged in glass, ceramic or stainless steel. Plastic and tin leaches chemicals into the oil. The bottle should also be dark or uv-coated to protect it from light.
—Storage: Always store your olive oil away from light and heat, which increases its oxidization and causes rancidity.
Why is it important to use high quality, well sourced olive oil?
The benefits of well sourced olive oil are so powerful when the olives have been raised, harvested and pressed consciously and responsibly. At Oracle we harvest our organic Koroneiki olives in early November, when they’re still green and vibrant, to capture their full nutritional benefit. The longer the olives ripen, the less antioxidants and polyphenols they retain.
Do you use olive oil internally and topically? Can you please share your favorite ways to use it.
Yes! I use it generously to prepare almost every meal I make. On sourdough toast for breakfast, for frying eggs (the Greek way), in salad dressing, when roasting veggies and sweet potatoes, as well as in baking, making granola, or drizzling over raw dark chocolate. Good, clean fats are so beneficial for brain power, hair and skin. Oracle has a low acidity of 0.27% and a smoke point of 410°F- 420°F, which means it’s much more versatile in the kitchen than lower-quality oils.
I also use it on my body for its anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties, and its high levels of squalane. Olive derived squalane (more sustainable than animal derived) helps boost collagen, fight free radicals and is readily absorbed by the skin. I make an antibacterial moisturizing face mask by mixing the oil with manuka honey. An Oracle body oil is in the works for early next fall, so stay tuned on that.
Your packaging is so beautiful, can you share how you created it?
Thank you! I wanted to honor Greek mythology, especially since my mom was born in Delphi, but I also wanted to modernize and elevate the notion of olive oil beyond just being a pantry object that gets put inside a cupboard. I love how certain brands like Aesop have taken really functional items like hand soap and heightened the everyday experience of using them. I wanted to create a beautiful, timeless bottle that my customers would be happy to display on their kitchen counter or dining room table. For the design of the logo and label, I was inspired by Modigliani’s caryatid paintings and Cycladic sculpture. I reached out to my friend, the talented artist Alejandro Cardenas, and together we created Oracle’s watercolor logo of an oil-bearing deity.
Who do you look to in the world of food that is creating interesting food products?
These are some of my favorites:
Seed + Mill tahini
SOS Chefs for spices
Casa Bosques, Freaky Health Chocolate Beauty Bar, and Hu Kitchen for chocolate
Kettl, Bellocq, and CAP Beauty for responsibly sourced tea and matcha
Sir Kensington’s clean condiments like mayo and mustard
Activist Manuka and Beekeeper’s Naturals for honey
Cocojune and Coconut Cult for dairy-free yogurt
Scribe winery for their biodynamic pinot noir
Dimes Market for their kale pesto
Clover Grocery for their sweet potato hummus and seed crackers
Siete cassava wraps and chips
NotMilk for their nut based milks
Daphnis and Chloe for Greek herbs and teas
Keay.k for Meg’s incredibly delicious paleo + vegan muffins
What is your favorite recipe?
My Greek grandmother’s faki (lentil) soup.
2 cups green lentils, rinsed
2 medium sized yellow onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3-4 parsley stems
½ cup fresh diced tomato
2 carrots, diced
1 stalk of of celery, diced
1 whole bay leaf
½ cup of Oracle Olive Oil
CAP's The Pink Mountain Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
*I either like to add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar when it’s done cooking or a scoop of coconut-turmeric yogurt for some extra creaminess (I use Cocojune). Finish with a drizzle of olive oil!Place the washed lentils in a large pot of 6-8 cups of water and boil for approximately 25 minutes. Strain and rest to the side. In the pot pour the EVOO and sauté the onion, garlic, carrots and celery for 5-8 minutes until the onions start to soften and become translucent. Add back in the lentils and tomato, bay leaf, parsley, salt, pepper and broth and boil all together on medium heat for approximately 20-25 min. Keep an eye out in case you need to add a bit more water if the soup is getting too thick.