Family folklore is that the Murphy brothers produced exceptional olive oil in much smaller quantities than their friends and neighbors. We always wondered why? Did the Murphy brothers have fewer olive trees? Why did we find old bottles with Latin writing on them? What was the explanation?
Research answered our question- the ancient Romans. The Romans viewed olive oil as a precious gift from the Gods, a “liquid Gold.” Indeed, the Roman diet consisted of almost one-quarter of olive oil!
To cultivate and produce so much olive oil, the Romans (under Emperor Hadrian- yes, the guy who also built the famous wall) perfected its manufacture and strictly regulated the olive oil industry. The Romans sorted the oil into five (5) categories. The highest quality (and most expensive) was “oleum ex albis ulivis,”oil manufactured from unripe olives, hand-picked from the trees, hand pressed, and loaded with natural antioxidants.
We had our answer- the Murphy brothers followed the ancient Roman formula. Less oil, much healthier.
Interestingly, the most expensive olive oil available in supermarkets and most other olive oil companies today was, in antiquity, the olive oil that the Romans reserved for their slaves. Limited availability in the Fall of 2023.