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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 Audio 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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
I can only add that if let one drop of olive oil pass your lips, you should read this book. I am now in the midst of planning an olive oil vacation here in the States; something I would not have imagined before reading this book.
So I contacted an old friend of mine who runs a small ranch in California's Yolo County, to ask him "How can I get oil like this once I get back home?" He recommended this book, and I read every word on it on my e-reader as I explored the restaurants of Rome.
I still use less expensive oil for generic cooking - most often grapeseed oil. But for anything that needs Mediterranean flavor, I use California olive oil with a recent bottling date. And for eating as-is, with bread or salad or over labneh, I buy the best, pepperiest, richest oil my pocketbook can manage - and, like a Roman, I occasionally just sip it from a cup. (The cooking teacher I learned with in Rome told me, "If by some chance I go a whole day without using any olive oil on my food, in the evening I just drink a shot glass of it." And if that sounds weird to you, I'm guessing you've never had good olive oil.)
There's also substantial evidence, outlined in the book, that good olive oil has significant anti-inflammatory effects. So I'm not just giving a treat to my mouth, I'm giving it to my gimp hip as well!
This book should be essential reading for anyone who cares about food.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I wish United States was strong on food quality regulation.Read more