[Sca-cooks] olive oil too expensive to be used as a cooking oil?

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Mon Jan 30 13:07:24 PST 2012

>> -------- Original Message --------
>> From: Sayyeda al-Kaslaania <samia at idlelion.net>
>> Date: Mon, January 30, 2012 5:43 am
> [... snip ...]
>> These statements don't disagree with Miller (whom I read as saying olive
>> oil was used, just not as the primary cooking fat), but I don't think it
>> says enough to agree either. The one paragraph almost seems to conflict
>> with the next, but that might be 4am talking.
> Frankly, I think Miller is whacked on this, and for one simple reason:
> There is plenty of evidence for olive oil being used as a primary
> cooking fat in countries in medieval Europe where olives were *not*
> grown (e.g. Germany, England, Denmark, France).  They had to be
> importing all that olive oil, and from a trade viewpoint it makes little
> sense to export the oil from where it is expensive to sell it where it
> is cheap.
> - Doc

You aren't factoring in the cost of transportation.  Olive oil is a large 
commodity which was most easily transported by water.  Most of Europe was
accessible by water.  Hauling it overland to Baghdad and beyond would have
been more expensive than transporting it to Northern Europe.

>From what I see in this discussion, Miller is saying that olive oil was so 
expensive in Baghdad, that other oils more readily available and less costly 
were used.  While Goitein and Miller make the point that locally available 
oils were the most commonly used in given regions.

Also, the use of olive oil in Northern Europe was driven by Christian 
religious doctrine that was not present in Islamic religious doctrine, 
therefore there was not the need to import olive oil to olive oil poor 
Islamic states as there was to Christian Northern Europe.  I'm sure the 
Northern Europeans would have been happy to use lard and butter with olive 
oil as a rare treat, just as the people of al-Islam used fat tail sheep and 
local vegetable oils with olive oil a rare treat in some locales.

Miller may be in error, but I don't think he is whacked.


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