Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Olive Oil - Who Knew?
by Tom Mueller
I heard just the first few minutes of NPR's Fresh Air interview with Tom Mueller about this book and was intrigued. His topic? Olive oil. The whole industry, business, and history of producing olive oil is fascinating. It's not a long book, but he, as my dad would have said, has done his homework. Living in Italy, Mueller visited families and orchards and olive presses (new technologies are replacing some traditional olive presses) to taste olive oil, learn about olive oil itself as well as the business of producing and distributing olive oil.
I learned a lot - how olive oils taste different depending on which variety ("cultivar") of olive tree the olives came from, the different grades of olive oil, from lampante (the lowest, used as lamp fuel, not usually for human consumption), to extra virgin.
What was shocking for me to learn was that a lot of the olive oil sold and consumed around the world has been adulterated or refined and is not, even if the label says it is, extra virgin olive oil, or is not solely extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil producers around the world try to maximize their profits by cutting olive oil with other seed oils. In addition, sometimes in transporting olive oil it can come contaminated and still be sold as pure extra virgin olive oil. There are few hard and fast standards anywhere in the world to assure that olive oil labeled as extra virgin olive oil is in fact extra virgin, or even all olive oil. Fraud is rampant in the industry.
Much more care is taken when I look at olive oil in the store since reading the book. I keep an eye out for some of the olive oil brands he described, producers who take care in making sure that their olive oil is pure and is genuinely extra virgin. I also now know to look at expiration dates, which should be in months, not years. Oil from olives is actually juice from a fruit and is perishable. Gone are the bottles of (old and likely impure) olive oil from my cabinet!
There is a lot to be gleaned from this book...enjoy!
Clicking on the underlined book title takes you to the Barnes and Noble page for this book. Clicking on the book cover takes you to Amazon's page for this book. Purchasing through these links helps support the blog. Thanks!