Thursday, February 02, 2006

Olive Oil Soap

One of my best purchases ever was the pure olive oil soap at the market in Aix-en-Provence. Despite the impatience of the tall, thin man shifting his weight from leg to leg behind the table, I hesitated among the dozens of colorful, aromatic soaps (of course without touching them and thereby eliciting a scolding). Then, there it was - the most pure, unscented, lovely green olive oil treasure.

Yes, olive oil is rich in vitamin E and makes an excellent moisturizer and is gentle on your skin but that's only part of the story. You probably figured out by now that I have a soft spot in my heart for things done in the traditional manner, by hand and with a long history. Olive oil soap has been around for a thousand years - why, just wash your face with it and you may catch a resonant glimmer in the mirror of the thousands, maybe millions of soap users from the murky (yet clean) past.

The vendor brusquely packaged the soaps as though scrambling to satisfy long lines of customers. Of course, it was just me and my sister at his stand.

At home I conserved my soaps carefully, making sure they never melted in a pool of bath water. Pure olive oil soap is rare here, and mighty expensive if you do find it. Still, only one bar left - and Aix so far from California.

Then, last week, making my way through the International Food Bazaar's narrow aisles, hunting for Pimenton de la Vera, I saw familiar green bars crowded next to the natural henna. The bag matter of factly announced its contents - Natural Green Olive Oil Soap. (Obviously from a place untouched by marketing hype.) And it's a bargain. It's made by Said Saifan Est., a company that has been making soap since 1939 with hand-picked olives from the Koura valley in Lebanon. Their ancient process is described here.

I'm happy to tell you that it's just as pure and sweet as Savon de Marseille.

Find it at the International Food Bazaar, 2052 Curtner, San Jose.


Anonymous Gini said...

That was a very nice post. I would love to lay my hands on some of those green babies.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous wendy said...

Hey! I remember that! You are a terrific writer, and the blog is so much fun.

Boohoo I used my bar up a year ago, after tenderly parsonning out tiny bits in each shower. It is not just the loveliness of olive oil, but the holding on to memories of market in France. Now that it all has slipped down the drain, I know where to get more. yippee!

9:45 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

Gini - thanks for your kind comment. I wish it were available more places too!

Wendy - it's really the same wonderful soap. And the store in San Jose, well, not quite Aix, but fun to visit. So next time you are here....

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the soap .... but sadly here in Santa Cruz there is no soap. The word must be spread. The soap ... the soap.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for including a picture of the olive oil soap. I have been trying to locate a source for it and think I may have--not sure. The link to the process on how it is made is broken on your comments. The soap looks the same as what I was given by a missionary friend but I am trying to find out if it contains bay leaves? Thank you for any help.

11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out I believe they have the soap you are looking for.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I just bought the Pure Olive Oil Soap. It seems promising. As soon as I wet the soap, I could feel it was buttery and slippary. I am partial to olive oil in any form. So I am hoping it delivers the results. Out here, I only found Saifan Natural Laurel Soap and Saifan Pure Olive Oil Soap. The lable for Saifan Pure Olive oil soap has a few other ingredients mentioned - Sodium Olivate, Sodium Cocoate, Sodium Palmilate, water, fragrance, caustic soda (!!??!! - woah i was not sure what to make of it).

I was hoping to find the Natural Green Soap only coz the lable says 100% olive oil. What other ingredients are part of this particular variety? Plz let me know so I can compare ingredients.

P.s: The link to the process of manufacturing Saifan soaps is just in case anyone is interested.


12:27 AM  
Blogger El Duderino said...

Tangiers on Farmington Ave in West Hartford sells this stuff, along with their usual assortment of outstanding Mediterranean food.

4:44 PM  
Blogger El Duderino said...

Tangiers on Farmington Ave in West Hartford sells this stuff, along with their usual assortment of outstanding Mediterranean food.

4:47 PM  
Blogger cookie girl said...

savon du masselle isnt exactly pure. it has alot of artificial ingredients. coming from africa we have alot of handmade products. im must say my rose soap from morrocco and goat milk soap from a trader in the US are my absolute favorite. for olive oil soap, i just add EVOO to my savon de marselle body wash. viola!

6:59 AM  

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