It is difficult to describe the sheer excitement we felt the moment the first trickle of golden-green olive oil emerged from the humming machine's spout. We stood nervously for more than half an hour after feeding the funnel with about 60 pounds of freshly harvested olives. The crushing of the fruit seemed to last forever, and we were incredulously looking at each other and through the little square holes at the brownish pulp, mashed and mixed for what seemed like an eternity.
The pulp had to "appear very shiny and brimming with oil" and only then could my husband, Costas, turn the knob to transfer the "ripe" paste into the next compartment that would, by centrifugal force, separate the pure, extra-virgin olive oil from the dry solids—the crushed olive stones and the leftover skins. That was the theory, and it had worked perfectly the first time the technician demonstrated the machine's capabilities. He had come to Kea with our brand new olive press to make sure that we learned how to operate it properly, or a season's harvest would be lost.
The next day we proceeded by ourselves, without knowledgeable assistance, and we waited so long for these first drops of liquid gold that we forgot to prepare slices of toasted bread for immediate tasting, as is the custom. We did that later, when the first excitement subsided, and the doubts crept up on us. Had we turned the knob at the right moment? Was the olive oil as clear as it should be? The residue dry enough, and not wet with wasted oil? After performing the appropriate tests, we were finally confident that we had proceeded correctly. So we relaxed, or tried to, and Costas, with Stathi, our neighbor and assistant, started to feed the machine and press the olives harvested the day before.