`One Use for Olive Oil After its "Best By" Date - Olive Oil Times

One Use for Olive Oil After its "Best By" Date

Mar. 14, 2011
Umut Egitimci

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The great taste and ben­e­fits of olive oil are unques­tion­able. But in Turkey, olive oil has some other pur­poses that might sur­prise you. It is used in a tra­di­tional sport called oil wrestling”. As one of the most pop­u­lar sports in Turkey, oil wrestling has a long his­tory dat­ing back to the Persian era around 1065 B.C. In this inter­est­ing sport, two wrestlers cover them­selves with olive oil before wrestling and try to find the per­fect bal­ance for win­ning. Before they start to wres­tle they scream the famous expres­sion Hayda Bre!” in order to get each other excited about the wres­tle. It’s like a warn­ing, or almost like throw­ing down the glove to each other.

They wear tight short leather trousers called kispet” weigh­ing around 13 kilo­grams (almost 30 pounds). Made of water buf­falo leather, kispets are the only item of cloth­ing worn by oil wrestlers. They are also most impor­tant because kispets can effect the results of the game. With their bod­ies oiled, a wrestler will try to get a hand inside his oppo­nen­t’s kispet in an attempt to get a hold and throw him onto his back.

The tour­na­ments are like big fairs with music, food and cel­e­bra­tions. It’s not only shar­ing a sports event but also per­pet­u­at­ing an ancient tra­di­tion. Turkish oil wrestling was first done offi­cially in 1347 when Suleiman Pasha, son of the 2nd Ottoman Sultan Orhan Gazi set up a tem­po­rary camp near Edirne dis­trict of Turkey.

The leg­end is told that dur­ing this camp­ing, his crew of 40 men played music, enjoyed food and drinks as well as prac­ticed oil wrestling with each other. The sports turned into a never-end­ing con­test where the two wrestlers were found dead because of exhaus­tion. They were buried under a fig tree and the fol­low­ing year when Suleiman Pasha returned to the grave with his troops, they saw that there was a spring formed around the grave. Today the area is known as Kırkpınar” which lit­er­ally means Forty Springs” and the most famous oil wrestling tour­na­ments hap­pen here every year.

In Turkish the wrestler is called Pehlivan” which also has a mean­ing like hero”. Each wrestler has an appren­tice ( çırak” in Turkish) in train­ing and when the mas­ter wrestler quits the arena, the chi­rak” takes it over to con­tinue the tra­di­tion. In the tour­na­ment, there are thir­teen cat­e­gories, each with a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place win­ner. These cat­e­gories are not set by weight only but also accord­ing to size, age and track record. The only excep­tion is the top cat­e­gory Chief Wrestler (“Baş Pehlivan” in Turkish) where match ups are decided by a lot­tery in front of the crowd. The age range for exam­ple goes from 12 to 40 in mod­ern tour­na­ments.

Kırkpınar is a three-day long event where the pres­i­dent of Turkey arrives on the third day to watch the finals. And before the finals, the munic­i­pal­ity orga­nizes an auc­tion where the bids are placed on a ram. The high­est bid­der becomes the aga” of the next year’s Kırkpınar as well as a spon­sor who orga­nizes din­ners, events and fes­tiv­i­ties. So at the end of the tour­na­ment, the Baş Pehlivan prize is given by the pres­i­dent, the aga and the mayor. Last year in June, the 649th edi­tion of his­tor­i­cal Kırkpınar oil wrestlings went on for a week and, on the first day, about 500 kg of olive oil was used to cover the wrestlers’ bod­ies. In 2011, the 650th edi­tion of the matches will be held between June 20th-26th.

There’s also a spir­i­tual side of oil wrestling which is about find­ing the bal­ance”. Oil makes it really hard to achieve this goal but olive oil wrestling is more about strength and endurance than clever moves. In this case, olive oil may not be for tast­ing but def­i­nitely offers a great taste of an ancient sport to expe­ri­ence.


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