The Orthodox are required to fast from "wine" and "olive oil" most Wednesdays and Fridays, for Lent, the Dormition of the Theotokos, the Nativity, and other fasts.
Nearly all Orthodox define "wine" as any alcoholic beverage. There are probably not any whom define "wine" as only wine and continue to drink beer and spirits on a fast day.
A majority of Orthodox define "olive oil" as simply olive oil; in other words, canola oil, vegetable oil, and any other vegan oil that is not olive oil is permitted for the majority of Orthodox members. There are some (a small minority) whom abstain from all the oils, and even some whom eat everything "dry" (xerophagia), such as pasta without tomato sauce.
As a matter of consistency, it would appear to me that if one were to define olive oil as only olive oil, then one would also define wine as only wine. It is true that the taste of olive oil is relatively superior to canola oil; however, it is hard to imagine that if canola oil existed in the first century that the Church would have permitted it.
Here are my questions:
What was the original purpose of the inclusion of wine in the items of fasting? I have read that people didn't drink water much back then, because it was very contaminated, instead opting for low-alcoholic beer or wine because it was much less contaminated. This could potentially lead one to the conclusion that "wine" was included as to encourage fasting from water, rather than intoxicating substances. Or, that piece of history could be a red herring, and the fast from "wine" simply does mean a fast from intoxicating substances. For example, in Canons 51 and 53 of the Apostolic Cannons, wine is juxtaposed with marital relations, which the Orthodox also abstain from on fast days, implying that the fast from wine is a fast from the pleasurable effects of intoxicating substances; however, exercising, smoking, reading, laughing, and all other pleasurable activities except sex and food are permitted on fast days.
(As an aside, how did Christians consume water during fast days if it was only available to them in low-alcoholic beer/wine?)
What was the original purpose of the inclusion of olive oil in the items of fasting? I have read that in the first century, olive oil was the only oil available, and the people tended to use it on all foods to substantially improve taste, and even used it on the skin, which was thought to make one look better. If this was the case than it is difficult for me to understand why canola oil is permitted in the majority of the Church. Perhaps there is some other component to olive oil that I am missing, or perhaps my assumption that canola oil is tolerated in the majority of the Church is incorrect?