Olive Oil


Parisians are beings of refinement and taste.

Bad luck for butter.

Butter is gross. And fattening. Parisians can’t deal with butter.

Thankfully enough, Parisians over the past decade have found out about olive oil.

Discovering olive oil has been a treat for most Parisians. First because it has allowed Parisians to start despising butter. It always feels good to despise a new thing. Especially for a reason: it is obvious Parisian knowledge that olive oil is so much better than butter. Parisians do believe that olive oil is not fattening. There are no nuisances whatsoever associated with olive oil.

Switching from butter to olive oil is a natural thing for the Parisian. Olive oil corresponds to a vision of the world he is simply more receptive to. Agriculture as a business conducted by professionals in a rainy region is suspicious to the Parisian. Too much suffering, work and weird smells involved. The Parisian much prefers a form of agriculture carried out under the sun of Provence by ‘un passionné’. So much better really. All in all, not only does olive oil do some good to the Parisian’s body, it also soothes his mind.

Only one other condiment comes with as much glow and sunny glamour as olive oil. That is balsamic vinegar. Anything made with ‘huile d’olive’ ou ‘vinaigre balsamique’ can only be good. Of course.

On the other hand, anything made with butter or ‘crème’ can only be heavy and fat. Other types of vinegars are for losers. If he really has to buy butter, the Parisian shall not indulge in regular butter. He will tend to opt for ‘beurre salé’ or ‘demi-sel’. Why? ‘Parce que c’est dix fois meilleur’. Of course.

There is no point reminding Parisians that all the dishes they fall for at a restaurant are made with significant amounts of butter and cream. Enchantment is rare enough a phenomenon in Paris to have any desire to blow its shiny bubble off.

Be it an extra-virgin bubble.

Useful tip: Avant-gardistes foodies are over olive oil. Grapes seed oil is their new thing.
Sound like a Parisian: « Tu vois, une petite salade, un filet d’huile d’olive, c’est tout simple, c’est hyper bon»

37 replies
  1. Neniii
    Neniii says:

    On a study abroad, my professor was telling us fun facts about Italian and French cuisine (during our lunch break). She talked about the origins/uses of olive oil and butter in Italy and France respectively, among other things. Then she asked me what was traditional in Mexican cooking and I blatantly replied… Lard. This awkwardly ended the conversation.

  2. Stefanie
    Stefanie says:

    So I have left my entire life in California…family, language, culture, sunshine…to live in France. But I have a 35 euro 3 gallon bottle of olive oil from Aix-en-Provence. I think I made the right choice. It is really good oil….

  3. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Eleni… Old school Parisians still do. Plus a few renegades like me. Lovely French pastries would sure not taste as good if prepared with olive oil!! Merci merci!
    Nenii… hence the tendency of being so skinny most mexicans have!!Now I get it!! ;-)
    Stefanie… 3 gallons?! Oh boy!! That is almost obscene!! But yes… living in France does come with a couple advantages for people who like to eat!

  4. Accidental Parisian
    Accidental Parisian says:

    I get the impression that French people in the provinces still love butter – in fact, that might be part of the Parisian anti-butter attitude. Butter: how provincial! The Parisian is soooo much more sophisticated than that, and he is, like, an expert on sushi and healthy stuff like that. Because sushi, it’s light, it’s not like that heavy, provincial French food. Bah.

  5. JB
    JB says:

    tout ca c’est vrai, les francais sont tellement attaches a manger ‘la bonne cuisine’.. sinon, tout est gros.. “Oh la la! Je ne mange pas… parce que ca fait grossier”:) et bien..
    le beurre sale est super bon et le caramel a la fleur de sel – il me manque..

  6. Stefanie
    Stefanie says:

    So I didn’t think that it was that obscene, I use it to cook with everyday…and then I realized I wrote gallons and not liters. That does kind of make a difference….I will be proof reading what I write from now. So, um, yay olive oil! :-)

  7. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    I am still dreaming of those bowls of mashed potatoes from La Table. They must have had tons of butter and cream and we just kept eating them. I do like olive oil and balsamic on most things too-especially chicken and spinach pizza with goat cheese. Yum.

  8. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    AP… A dire vrai, les provinciaux sont généralement plus sensés.
    JB… Ahhhh, le caramel au beurre salé… tellement bon!
    Stefanie… Yeah cause three gallons, it’s like: how do you even handle pouring?!! Truth be told, I also love to say the word obscene in English!
    Martine… Je ne connais ni Glasgow ni ses spécialités! Mais merci du tuyau – j’essaierai (en petit quantité, donc…).
    Amanda… Robuchon is famous for his purée. Isn’t it cool to be famous worldwide for your purée de pommes de terre? Like people fly over oceans to taste it!
    Marcelle… American county fairs… sounds like a lot of beer?!! For the records, maybe I’m wrong, but I’d say that most Le Monde journalists don’t hang in America too much…
    Jacques… I know right… call that a reminiscence of the time I’ve lost en province!!

  9. Jean-François
    Jean-François says:

    “Butter is gross. Parisians can’t deal with butter.” Where did you see that ?
    Sans croissants au beurre, Paris ne serait plus Paris.

  10. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Martine… moi? Jamais!
    Barbra… Well, that’s very kind thank you!
    Martine… Merci. J’apprécie!!
    Jean-François… so you think I believe no one buys butter anymore in Paris? Speaking of croissants au beurre, I’m off o buy one.

  11. Minette
    Minette says:

    I recently discovered French butter with fleur de sel at Fautway in NYC. I’m really not a huge butter eater but oh French butter is heaven… Thank you, France! :)

  12. Stéphan
    Stéphan says:

    Olivier…
    again and again pointing at me…
    no seriously I can’t live without demi sel with one of the most caricatural parisian concept : the baguette.
    huile d’olive is only for salad – hyper bon indeed…
    but being a guy from Normandy, with a south west of France Grande Ecole mind and a Parisian lycée… I feel a bit confused…
    Am I a parisian or not ? Do parisians like me and accept me as one of them ?
    I’ll never know ;)

  13. Polly-Vous Francais
    Polly-Vous Francais says:

    Hi Olivier,

    This has absolutely nothing to do with olive oil. (L’huile d’Olivier, your namesake?)

    But I just had a thought. Some day could you tell us about Parisians’ love affair with Verlan? I understood it in principle when I was living in Paris but realized I could never master it when I heard a friend say “l’ascenseur est keblo.”

    Merci as always,

    Polly-vous

  14. martine silber
    martine silber says:

    @olivier: espuma: mot espagnol (mousse, écume) mis au goût du jour par Ferran Adria et base de sa cuisine . A priori, nécessite simplement un siphon . Je viens d’en rater deux….mais je persévère! Genre aile de raie et esuma de câpres (au programme d’aujourd’hui et avec aceite de oliva)

  15. Beth Marlin
    Beth Marlin says:

    Dear Olivier and Friends: In my pantry, butter and olive oil co-habitate nicely. I cook with a good grade of extra-virgin, first pressed oil and finish dishes with a fine stream of the best that I can afford. However, sitting at my kitchen counter, with a morning cafe au lait and croissant, I generously slather on sweet creamy butter with alternate dollops of Hediard berry preserves. As editor of Paris-Insider.com, my foodie mission is the discovery and review of good-tasting offerings, whether cooked in butter or olive oil. Under torture, if I was forced to decide between the two…hmmm, please don’t take away my butter!

  16. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Stéphan… I think you are from where you grew up. As per being accepted and liked by Parisians… come on, let’s not be naive here!
    Polly… will do!!
    Martine… Je vois, Marcel sur le show américian Top Chef était spécialiste de ces petites choses il me semble!
    Beth… Bienvenue! Glad to see French delicacies make it all the way to Cali!!

  17. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Too bad…French butter is the finest in the world. (One can argue Irish and English butter have more distinctive flavors) Oh well, more for me! : )
    But butter cohabitates with olive oil in anyone’s pantry. no need for anyone to be hating!

  18. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Martine… Thx for sharing!
    Elizabeth… Thank you for these praises for French butter. I like it too. And don’t worry – it’s not about hating, it’s about assering superiority: très différent!

  19. Lulu
    Lulu says:

    ah… butter. I miss butter, there is no butter here in Japan. And good bread.

    I love butter. Olive oil too, but butter more.

  20. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Well, yes…I mean “don’t be Hatin’ ” in the very urban sense…as in “don’t be disrespectin’ on the butter just because it comes from a well fed cow and it’s all fattening and filling.” Should I throw in a couple of snaps as well? Read the article, we were speaking identical languages. What I enjoy most is that French butter is for eating, (elegant,delicate) not for cooking (certainly not the expensive imports we get in the States.) Do not start me…I would go on and on about all butter’s (French and otherwise) virtues. Enough….moving on…

  21. Juan
    Juan says:

    Hello guys,

    I live in Jaen and my family owns an olive trees explotation. We produce olive oil right from the fruit. No chemichal process or any bull. Olive juice. In spain producers are having tough time ’cause we can not compete with the big distribution companies which buy low cuality olive and make the big money. I am thinking to move to paris and sell my own oil like a peasant in the market. I could sell 5 liters bottle between 50 and 60 euros.

  22. Laika
    Laika says:

    Olive oil and Roquefort. Mmmm, yum!!! ;) If you still haven’t tried this combination, you must…

    As for butter, I always hate not having some at the table in French restaurants before the actual meal. Not even in Normandy, butter ‘country’. Shame… ;)

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