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Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil [Kindle Edition]

Tom Mueller
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The sacred history and profane present of a substance long seen as the essence of health and civilization.


For millennia, fresh olive oil has been one of life's necessities-not just as food but also as medicine, a beauty aid, and a vital element of religious ritual. Today's researchers are continuing to confirm the remarkable, life-giving properties of true extra-virgin, and "extra-virgin Italian" has become the highest standard of quality.



But what if this symbol of purity has become deeply corrupt? Starting with an explosive article in The New Yorker, Tom Mueller has become the world's expert on olive oil and olive oil fraud-a story of globalization, deception, and crime in the food industry from ancient times to the present, and a powerful indictment of today's lax protections against fake and even toxic food products in the United States. A rich and deliciously readable narrative, Extra Virginity is also an inspiring account of the artisanal producers, chemical analysts, chefs, and food activists who are defending the extraordinary oils that truly deserve the name "extra-virgin."


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2011: E.V.O.O. just got a whole lot more complicated. Tom Mueller's Extra Virginity is about as explosive as an expose can get, at least if your subject is liquid fat. The road from tree to table, it turns out, is fraught with corruption, fraud, and laboratory interventions. Mueller shows how and why the trade in adulterated olive oil is about as profitable as the trade in some hard drugs, and with a lot less risk, too. There are equally entertaining detours into olive oil's long history, the politics of regulation and enforcement, and even debates over the best way to taste it (swirl, aerate, spit, or just swig?). All in all, it's a great read not just for foodies, but also for anyone interested in the complexities of global trade and organized crime. --Darryl Campbell

Review

A Best History, Current Events, Contemporary Issues Audiobook of 2012. "[Narrator] Peter Ganim narrates with appropriate surprise, occasional outrage, and always energy and excitement. His excellent Italian and his deep base voice suit the text. His voicing of the many personalities Mueller interviews and even his reading of the glossary at the end are most entertaining...a must listen..." - SoundCommentary
"[Ganim's] voice lavishes the descriptions of beautiful landscapes of olive groves and delicious olive-oil-infused cuisine with audible love. He gives studied accents to the global range of olive oil producers, farmers, professors, and wholesalers, according to their country of origin." - AudioFile Magazine
Starred review. "Engrossing history, vivid contemporary reporting, and a cogent call to action, expertly blended in an illuminating text." - Kirkus Reviews
3 out of 4 stars. "Mueller builds a convincing case...gives readers the tools to find honestly and lovingly produced product." - USA Today
"...engaging story..." - Publishers Weekly
"Extra Virginity promises a journey into the 'sublime and scandalous world of olive oil' and delivers on that promise. Readers of this book will never again look at olive oil in the same way." - New York Journal of Books
"a sparkling, stylish, sharply observed narrative that entertains and educates." - The Dallas Morning News
"Extra-virgin olive oil is glorious, complex and slippery...that's bountifully clear in Tom Mueller's expansive, fascinating exploration...Mueller manages to fuse the poetry and business of olives into a riveting tale that also sheds light on food politics more broadly. The growing legion of olive oil aficionados are destined to adore it, especially the useful index telling them how and where to buy." - Macleans
"How long have readers been waiting for a book like this? A century? A millennium? Finally, the earth's most poetic food has found its storyteller. Essential, smart, and ridiculously overdue." - Bill Buford, author of Heat

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
187 of 198 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
There is no other fruit with a deeper history than the olive. With the publication of Extra Virginity, Tom Mueller has taken it to its bitter end and brings it back again. A book filled with twists and turns that would shame the best mystery writer, Mueller tells a riveting tale about an age-old staple. He explores both ends of the spectrum - the dark, devious world of adulterated oil that has plagued the industry for centuries and a new host of characters from chemists to chefs who are trying to take extra virgin olive oil to a higher level.

It is a story of two opposites: first-class quality doing battle with worldwide commodity pricing and big-money subsidies. Mueller, best known for his 2007 exposé on the world of adulterated olive oil in The New Yorker magazine, spent the last four years delving deep into the subject. When the stakes are as large as a rapidly growing, $1.5 billion business in the U.S. alone, it's understandable that Mueller would uncover an undercurrent of shady dealings.

He introduces readers to a cast of characters from around the world. From "hero" archetypes like Paolo Pasquali of Villa Campestri in Tuscany, a former philosophy professor, who spearheads a new system to protect oil from tree to table to villainous players like Domenico Ribatti, whose illegal activity eventually led to a plea bargain in Italian court. Even Mark Twain gets a mention.

Kudos to the well-deserved acknowledgement of Mike Madison's long years of diligence as a small-scale producer of first class oil. I was only disappointed that there was so little mention of many other ardent, honest and ethical growers in California who are toiling to see extra virgin olive oil gain its rightful place on the shelf. I hope Mueller gets to meet some of them before he completes a sequel.

Caroline J. Beck, The Olive Oil Source
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62 of 65 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Loving an endangered species - 3+ January 22, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An interview with author Tom Mueller on NPR's "Splendid Table" program led me to buy the book. Mueller is just as passionate in person about his subject--great olive oil--as he is in his writing. He is equally strong in chronicling his outrage over what the greed of producers and distributors is doing to undermine the quality of the product. All of this is laid out at length in "Extra Virginity". And it is the extensive investigatory reporting on the greed and criminality that makes the book drag considerably. Still, it does make his warnings and buying counsel to consumers of olive oil the more convincing, even if it makes the book more difficult to read.

What I (gratefully) did get from this book were some great sources to find authentic extra virgin olive oil and a persuasive argument that quality in the product does matter for culinary and health reasons. These are two good reasons to buy Mueller's book. And here's a tip to perspective readers who might, like me, tire of the long passages about Italian oil criminality or semi-cryptic descriptions of olive oil's chemical makeup: you can skip to page 221 of the book where begins Mueller's detailed Appendix, and where you will find all of the information you need to locate, buy and appreciate authentic extra virgin olive oil of any origin. It includes what to avoid as well as how and when to purchase. I have used the information and bought my first Mueller-recommended oil--a Spanish label, Castillo de Canena, that is every good thing that Mueller promised it would be, including crushingly expensive.

Finally, here are a few important things that the reader will get from this book: most extra virgin olive oil sold in the U.S.
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102 of 115 people found the following review helpful
By C. Cord
Format:Hardcover
At a conference in Córdoba, Spain last summer Tom Mueller addressed a gathering of politicians, olive oil producers, scientists and journalists and urged them to repeat the words "extra virgin" three times slowly. The words soon become, he said, "not a food, but a strange religious cult, a language of initiation, or some place on the internet where you really would not want your children to go."

He should know. Mueller is the investigative author whose 2007 piece in The New Yorker, Slippery Buisness: The Trade in Adulterated Olive Oil, forever changed the discourse about olive oil quality by uncovering plenty of places you wouldn't want your children to go.

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil is Mueller's first book and, while the title emphasizes the weight and complexity of those words, it's all about people.

Mueller is driven by a profound respect for the dedicated people who make good olive oil and a disdain for the fraudsters and profiteers who have always had their way with us. But much more than just getting in the faces of the good guys and the bad guys, he tells why it matters. And then you get it -- you understand what olive oil really is, and why so many care about it so deeply.

After 256 engrossing pages that go by way too quickly, someone who never contemplated the tin of olive oil on the kitchen counter will know why it has brought out the best, and the worst in people for thousands (yes thousands) of years.

I tore through the book, then went back to the beginning and tore through it again. The only times I paused were to read a passage over to take it in a second time, marveling at Mueller's way with words.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative. If you are interested in the purity ...
Very informative. If you are interested in the purity of the oils you use in the kitchen, it is a must read. Thank you Tom for writing this book.
Published 1 month ago by Jamie C Felder
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book that had to be written.
Certainly changed the way I look at and use EVO. Unlikely to ever again buy and Italian oil. Lucky enough to have excellent local product here in New Zealand which I have been... Read more
Published 2 months ago by M. C. Reddy
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book. Wish I had not waited so long ...
It is history, food, information, advice, people, a story, crime, health, . . . you name it. Great book. Wish I had not waited so long to read and re-read it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Hopsing
3.0 out of 5 stars Mostly About Olive Oil Fraud
Although this book is well-written and interesting, I was disappointed by its limited scope.

I was expecting an overview of olive oil: the history, the science, the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jack Ryan
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative for the entry into the world of olive oil
Having just returned from Italy where I toured a number of oil orchards and processing mills tasting extra virgin oils along the way this book has further peaked my interest and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Douglas P Matthews
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading
Entertaining, interesting, very well written. After reading it I'm using more olive oil than ever. But being selective in what I buy. Read more
Published 4 months ago by RMS
5.0 out of 5 stars Arrived on time, as advertised.
Arrived on time, as advertised.

I went through a class on olive oil and balsamic vinegar where they talked about this book.
Published 4 months ago by Joe G. Hill Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars Badass
This book kicks so much ass. I highly recommend reading it, because then you will understand the physical pain I experience when I scroll down to the bottom of this page and see... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Coffee Drinker
4.0 out of 5 stars A really shock expose
For anyone who looks for olive oil for health or taste, this gives, in an easy to read form, the horrible facts of what really goes into the making of most so called extra virgin... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Roxanne Baldwin
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent reference source
Mueller is a talented writer. He thoroughly educates the reader in the historical, economic, cultural, political and geographical aspects of olive oil. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Charlene Andreottola
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Kindle Formatting Problems
Thanks for letting us (the ebook developers) know! I've made corrections to this title and it has been re-uploaded to Amazon as of yesterday. There is a +/- 48 hour wait for Amazon to finish re-processing and distributing the file. You should be able to re-download the book with your account to... Read More
Jan 4, 2012 by Erin Schultz |  See all 4 posts
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