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Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil Paperback – April 8, 2013
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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 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 rituals But this symbol of purity has become deeply corrupt A superbly crafted combination of cultural history and food manifesto Extra Virginity takes us on a journey through the world of olive oil opening our eyes to olive oil s rich past as well as to the fierce contemporary struggle between oil fraudsters of the globalized food industry and artisan producers whose oil truly deserves the name extra virgin Book jacket
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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. probably isn't extra virgin oil; to get the good stuff, you have to pay a premium; olive oil is great for your health, if you get the right stuff; the color of the oil doesn't indicate quality; point of origin indicated on the label of any olive oil doesn't relate to quality; there is no single country that produces "the best olive oil".
So, although this may not be the easiest-flowing book, overall it's a fine source of information about an important and interesting food product that is a big plus to quality of life.
Now I finished it and my conclusion has not changed in principle but I found the book more useful than after just reading some pages.
My main complaint now is the way the book is disorganized. The author lives in Italy but we (most of us) live here in the USA. It happens that the complete lack of interested in the quality of olive oil is about the same in Europe as it is here but, this is a book in American English and it should have started right here, perhaps in my own state of California. OK, that's definitely the author's choice how to put everything together. How many Italians, however, will read the book?
The othe issue is the anedotal character of the book. The author admits it but should have avoided it. Too many completely irrelevant observations and verbose quotations - transcripts, I think, from his voice recorder. Of course, a thorough editing would have reduced the book substantially and turned it, perhaps, into Kindle Single.
A very useful material is at the very end. Links to (hopefully) good source of REAL extra virgin olive oil, domestic (US) or imported. That's what I was looking for and the author could have provided an intruductory outline of the material and mention the links.
The bottom line: we can order online and in some isolated local stores true extra virgin olive oil for some $20 for 500 mL (half quart). That is much more than the nominal extra virgins in the supermarket.
So after some interesting but mostly boring reading i got what I wanted: for special occassions buy a real extra virgin at one of the places author links to, for cooking use just the basic generic 'vegetable oil' from any supermarket.
This conclusion, obviously, could have been postulated and documented (mostly from US experience, we do not live in Europe) much more succintly.
So, this remains a critical review, perhaps more balanced than the original one.