Olive Oil’s Growers, Chemists, Cooks and Crooks
A few pages into Tom Mueller’s new book, “Extra Virginity,” there’s a funny moment when an olive oil expert holds up a bottle that’s covered with dubious claims: “100 percent Italian,” “cold-pressed,” “extra virgin.” The man shakes his head and says, perhaps with a hint of Don Rickles in his voice, “Extra virgin? What’s this oil got to do with virginity? This is a whore.”
The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, By Tom Mueller
These are sentences to savor. They underscore this book’s project, which is to demonstrate the brazen fraud in the olive oil industry and to teach readers how to sniff out the good stuff. These are also, sad to say, among this book’s few digestible lines. Earnest and sentimental from start to last, “Extra Virginity” doesn’t have a shrewd or slutty bone in its body. It’s an unintentional master class in how to say waxy and embalming things about fresh food.
Mr. Mueller is an American writer who lives in Italy. And not just anywhere in Italy but, his dust flap reveals, in a description that’s the prose equivalent of Corinthian leather upholstery, “in a medieval stone farmhouse surrounded by olive groves in the Ligurian countryside outside of Genoa.” Continue Reading
AMERICAN food lovers have long taken for granted that only olive oils from the Mediterranean are worth buying — preferably with an olive tree, an Italian flag and some words like “authentic cold pressed” on the bottle.
But in the last decade, California producers have mounted a major new effort to bring back the domestic olive oil industry, planting thousands of acres, building new mills and producing oils that can be fresher, purer and cheaper than all but the finest imports.
The California olive oil trade, started by 16th-century Spanish missionaries, was almost dead 10 years ago, except for small-scale producers along the Pacific Coast and in the wine country. Continue Reading
Article credits: The Olive Oil Source
HEATING OLIVE OIL AND SMOKE POINT
One of the questions we are asked most often is what happens when olive oil is heated and/or used for frying. The important thing about cooking with any oil (olive or otherwise) is not to heat the oil over its smoke point (also referred to as smoking point). The smoke point refers to the temperature at which a cooking fat or oil begins to break down. The substance smokes or burns, and gives food an unpleasant taste. But what is the smoke point of olive oil? Depending on where you look for an answer, you may get vastly different ideas. Continue Reading