Sometimes wishful thinking helps you trick yourself. Consider the case of fine chocolate vs. a delicate Tunisian olive oil.
There was a package in our vestibule. Virus control theatre it may be, but my husband persists in quarantining our packages for 24 hours before we
manhandle them. As I sought a different item I’d ordered, a familiar logo caught my eye. I believed I had accidentally uncovered a secret surprise: a shipment from a gourmet chocolatier!
If you’re lucky, you, too, have enjoyed Lake Champlain Chocolates, made in Vermont by a family run business since 1983. My introduction to the brand was at Whole Foods in New England, but I ordered direct from the company for the first time during the pandemic. I wanted to make sure we had foil-wrapped coins for Hanukkah, though Lake Champlain Chocolates’ are a step up in taste from common parve (non-dairy) Hanukkah gelt.
In December 2020, our local Whole Foods was only stocking the dark chocolate coins, but members of my family prefer the milk and peppermint versions. Like most grocers, Whole Foods only stocks Jewish holiday items according to their “corresponding” Christian/American seasons; they often sell out of the limited stock of Hanukkah or Passover items on dates inconvenient to the actual celebrations in question.
Fast forward to the day after I spied the box with the conspicuous logo; I was back in the foyer to retrieve another item from our jumble of cartons. I was working on a spice jar upgrade project. Not vital, but very satisfying during the most cooking-intensive phase of my life. I dug the Amazon box I wanted out of the heap, then turned to head upstairs.
The box with the animal logo was still there. That seemed odd if it was intended as an out-of-the-blue gift. Figuring I’d ruined the surprise either way, I checked the shipping label. It was addressed to me, not my husband!
At this point, having lifted the box and found it very heavy for its size, I realized my error. The logo I’d mistaken for Lake Champlain Chocolates’ rather coy deer was, in fact, the similarly high-stepping horse on a case of two large 3 Litre cans of Terra Delyssa olive oil!
Viewed side by side, the logos are easy to distinguish. Still, I may look less silly if you notice that Lake Champlain Chocolates does use a golden tan color liberally on its website, so add a bit of similarity of shades to the presence of a quadruped with a raised forefoot in my defense. Somehow, my less than visually proficient mind also equates the bumpy ground beneath the deer to the stylized leaves—or mane?—on the horse’s neck.
Above is a close up of the Lake Champlain Chocolates logo on packaging for a little bunny I got for my husband.
DH found it very easy to grow adapted, as a Jewish man, to having a mother-in-law send sweets every spring as she celebrated Easter. “Mother Christmas” could be counted upon to make every season festive! I ordered this little chocolate hare for him for the same reason I’d mistakenly believed he got it for me: in honor of my departed mother.
I don’t think I would make the same mistake again—logo vs. logo—but it is quite clear how I tricked myself in the first place. Right? Or perhaps I am as blind to logo differentiation as I am to faces… Here’s hoping I’m never a witness at a trial for this and so many other reasons.
In preparing this post, I did a bit more research about both companies. Thanks to this reading, I now know that the horse—employed in Terra Delyssa’s logo—was the ancient symbol of Carthage. I also never learned or failed to recall how that great city was founded in the 9th century BCE by a woman, Elyssa (a.k.a., Dido), daughter of the king of Tyre. I appreciate my new go-to olive oil stating: “The Terra Delyssa signature reflects the diverse cultural heritage of Carthage and modern Tunisia,” honoring this fascinating ancient legacy.
I like a little culture with my culinary resources!
When I first saw Tunisian olive oil for sale on Costco’s website in 2020, I had to learn more to feel comfortable buying anything other than my usual Kirkland Signature organic bottle. Fraudulently packaged, adulterated olive oil is a huge international problem. Supply disruptions were everywhere last spring, however, and Terra Delyssa’s bulk packaging was incredibly appealing when grocery delivery was hard to get.
Until I was shopping for both of my household’s two kitchens, I had no idea how much oil my in laws consume! I would be unlikely to use up 6 L of oil before it expired based upon my personal cooking habits, even feeding all four of us upstairs… with teens.
Power users they may be, but even my in laws would be hard “pressed” to use up Costco’s largest offering of olive oil: four drums holding 55 gallons each!
Ahem. In a post about olive oil, that pun couldn’t be avoided. By me. Sorry.
The great upside to buying anything from Costco is their liberal return policy, though happily I didn’t need it for my foray into Tunisian olive oil. We tried Terra Delyssa’s oil in August 2020, and re-ordered another six litres seven months later. Perhaps the most telling point is that I made that choice while my old stand-by—Kirkland Signature organic olive oil in the glass bottle—was back in stock.
My online research suggested Tunisian olive oil is a great bet for someone with my priorities. This Washington Post article reassures me that “Tunisia is the largest exporter of organic olive oil in the world” while older ones spoke of the nation’s long history of cultivating their trees and described the quality of exported products available. I would much rather directly support Tunisian producers in North Africa, buying single origin oil from them, than experience their lowest quality offerings blended by unscrupulous Italian bottlers into falsely labeled “Italian olive oil.”
Most orchards in Tunisia are not treated with pesticides, and even irrigation is rare. It’s fair to describe them as practicing a very traditional form of agriculture. While my exploration of the complex issues of freedom and human rights was by necessity shallow, it does also appear that Tunisia is a fairly free especially for the Arab world nation that operates as a representative democracy. I feel good about spending my purchasing dollars there as opposed to supporting the Italian mafia.
Terra Delyssa puts a barcode on every package, allowing me to trace exactly where my jug of oil was produced and when it was packaged. My favorite bit, upon following the link unique to my oil, is the perhaps questionable translation of my oil’s “liberation date;” I suspect that’s the date it was bottled from the storage tanks mentioned earlier in its lifespan, or perhaps the date on which it was shipped from its point of origin.
As a liberated woman, however, I delight in thinking my olive oil meets a similar standard.
If there’s a Really Wonderful Thing about the shortages and deprivations of COVID-19’s upending of our supply chain, it is the resultant discovery of new favorites and new sources. I’m happy to go directly to the maker for more of my goods; I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about my favorite chocolates or the ancient legacy of olive oil on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea from the Italian and Spanish groves with which I’d been familiar.
Would that we hadn’t had that dreadful impetus to learn, of course, but thank God for the privilege of such luxuries in spite of it.