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Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil Paperback – April 8, 2013
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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
--This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
“Tom Mueller is, in turn, chemist, explorer, scholar and bard, infusing the narrative with a sense of wonder.”
- Times Literary Supplement
“In covering an industry that has its heroes and villains, author Tom Mueller does a splendid job of sorting out the players and demystifying the product.”
- Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times
“Extra Virginity may make you reconsider the extra you’re paying for 'extra.'”
- Cynthia Crossen, Wall Street Journal
“Passionately written yet clear-headed…Mueller builds a convincing case for olive oil as one of the most miraculous and versatile substances in all of nature.”
- Jerry Shriver, USA Today
“Mueller does for his subject what Susan Orlean did for orchids.”
- Columbus Dispatch
“[Extra Virginity] does for olive oil what Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation did for hamburgers. Mueller traces the history of this valuable product from antiquity to the present, but the really disturbing part is his exposé of the inferior quality control and outright fraud among today’s oil producers.”
- Andy Lewis, Hollywood Reporter
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I wish United States was strong on food quality regulation. Unlike many other countries, US doesn't demand distributors to add the acidity of the Olive Oil on the bottle. This is not alone a guarantee of quality, but it would help to guide buyers when shopping Olive Oil.
As a health care and preventative medicine professional I sought advice to pass on to my patients and found it in Mueller's text along with much more. As olive oil has become more popular it is unfortunate that the quality of the various olive oils has come under question because of nefarious production methods and short of widespread use of chemical analysis we must depend upon taste tests to verify authenticity and freshness. Taste and olfaction are not easilly quantified , a subjective system modified by many external and internal variables. Hopefully olive oil taste tasting will not reach the ridiculous levels seen with wines where some self promoting experts think they can differentiate a wine they score as a 91 from a wine they gave an 87. So far this does not appear to be the case.
Unfortunately,the health care advice gleaned from this well written ,entertaining and instructive text will not be terribly practical for the average citizen. The price of most verified extra virgin olive oils makes them an impractical item to become daily fare. Mr. Mueller should in his web-site attend to this practial matter and seek out large producers whose product is healthy and at a reasonable price. One comes away from the reading with the advice that if it is cheap it cannot be good. Maybe that is true and mass production with its inherent lower cost base is impossible to achieve with preservation of quality. If so ,EVOO will remain a staple for the well-off , a specialty item but not a health promoting item in everyone's kitchen.
It must be noted that the MED diet was a diet of necessity evolving during and just after WW2 when lack of many staples made folks lean more towards subsistence and everybody had olive trees in their backyard and could grow their own veggies and fruit to add to their high consumption of seafood and poultry. Too bad olive trees do not thrive everywhere ! And too bad MacDonalds has reached the Rim.
In summary, I highly recommend this very fine read.