Friday, February 10, 2012

More on "Extra Virginity"

I am actually embarrassed to write this, because I am terrible at writing book reviews.  I don't take any notes as I read (and I should), and so really, by the time I finish the book (and depending on how long it took), I'm not giving a very, good accurate review.

So now that I've destroyed my credibility, watch me go!

A month or so ago, I was listening to an NPR program called "The Splendid Table", and the fascinating topic of discussion was 'Green Soup'.  Naturally, I was impelled to look the soup recipe up online, and found it to be very complicated.  But what caught my interest right next to the recipe was an interview with Tom Mueller, the author of the book "Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil".

It's a book.  A book about food.  Well, you know me, I'm in.  So I bought it for my Kindle.


Olives and olive oil are old.  We all know that.  They've been around since ancient Greek times.  The author tells an interesting tale of its history, interwoven with stories from Old World olive growers.  Olive oil was once extremely revered, used in Olympic Games, religious sacraments, and even for personal grooming rituals.  But it was also very versatile, having many, many uses besides food.

However, as industry changed, so did the scruples. 

Olive oil growers, shippers, and producers learned over the last several centuries that extra-virgin (read: the first press juice, aka the best) olive oil could be diluted/adulterated with cheaper oils (e.g. pomace, cottonseed).  And really, only the conscientious, true connoisseurs know when it's really EVOO...which meant a lot of hardworking, everyday people were getting swindled.  Also, throw in some ineffective government regulations and corrupt customs officials, and fake olive oil goes beyond the borders of the Mediterranean.

Along with huge corporation monopolies and the corruption that goes with it, Americans (who are beginning to love olive oil) are suffering from the little to no governmental regulation for olive oil growers/producers, and that means the likelihood that we're consuming fake olive oil is very, very high.  However, a few dedicated Europeans and Americans and Australians are trying to change that.  And that's the hopeful note this book ends on.

As for me, key points/revelations:

1.  I want to eat more extra-virgin olive oil.  But, more than likely, anything I buy at a grocery store will be lampante (lamp oil).

2. I want to go to Italy.

3. I want to go to the place mentioned in the previous post.

4. People need to stop trying to cheat us.  A lot.

1 comment:

  1. But...lamp oil is delicious. In fact, I have a nice recipe for Boggart Pie that requires it - EVOO just won't bring out the flavour.

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