Founder’s Note: On Philoxenia
Growing up I was fortunate to spend every summer in Greece, on my grandparents’ farms in Delphi and the Peloponnese. Both sides of my grandparents were agrarians — they had gorgeous seasonal vegetable and herb gardens, fig and stone-fruit trees, grape leaves, olive groves, and their own livestock. Our mornings always consisted of feeding the roosters, rabbits, and sheep, then collecting eggs for breakfast, paired with a loaf of seeded bread my grandmother would wake up at 5AM to mill and bake. I’d help gather honey from my grandfather's apiaries, wearing my tiny beekeeper’s suit, and we’d milk the sheep to make yogurt and kasseri cheese to pair with our olives for a late afternoon snack. In the evenings, we’d hike up to our almond trees and bring back nuts to shell for my grandmother’s koulouria. These traditions provided the knowledge and motivation for me to start Oracle, but it was the centuries-old Greek value of philoxenia — generosity expressed through food and ritual — that provided the inspiration.
The word philoxenia comes from a story that appears in the Metamorphoses, a book written by the Roman poet Ovid in 8 A.D. In the story, the gods Zeus and Hermes, disguised as poor travelers, visit many villages in search of refuge for the night, but are repeatedly turned away. Only a poor elderly couple, Baucis and Philemon, welcome them in for food and wine. After refilling her guests’ cups many times over, Baucis notices that the wine jug is still full; Philemon realizes their visitors are actually gods, and offers to kill his only goose to feed them. Touched, Zeus rewards their generosity by transforming their humble cottage into a beautiful stone temple, and promising them an eternal life together, as trees, once they die. Their story gave rise to the notion of philoxenia, which is commonly translated into English as hospitality, but is really about an expression of love and friendship towards strangers.
Philoxenia is a cultural norm that’s deeply embedded in the identity of Greeks; it’s about sharing not just their food, but their lives with others, whether family, friends, or travelers just passing through their village. Welcoming strangers into your home for a beautiful Greek meal is meant to break down all barriers and transcend the idea of “the other.”
This act of preparing something with attention and love, and sharing it as a way to connect, is an inherent part of my identity, and that of Oracle Oil. It’s important to me that when I cook and serve a meal for my friends or loved ones that I use the very best seasonal ingredients, because of what each of those meals means to me. That’s why Oracle is made with the highest level of integrity — we hand-pick our olives early to maintain their nutrient levels, and take great care in transporting them to the mill the same day to be cleaned, pressed, and filtered at temperatures below 27º, resulting in an exceptional organic Greek extra virgin olive oil. One that we hope is worthy of holding a special place at your table.
—Cristiana Sadigianis, Oracle Oil founder